“lol that’s Sammie Coates’ replacement, not mine, take it how you want to, I am back.”
Bryant made news for throwing his new teammate under the bus on social media, but do you think this Tweet was made out of arrogance or defensiveness?
As far as I was concerned, there were many layers to the drafting of a receiver with such a premium pick, and anyone — including the teammate-dissing receiver himself — who didn’t consider the possibility that the intent was to replace a player who missed 20 out of 48 career games due to drug-related suspensions really wasn’t thinking things through.
The notion that Bryant’s enormous talent, which included great size and speed, could be thwarted by anything other than his own demons seemed ridiculous to many, but that’s because his skill-set had been hyped to an almost mythical level during his time away from football.
True, Bryant did account for 1,314 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns on 76 receptions in his first 21 career games — numbers that screamed Randy Moss-like potential. But it wasn’t like he reinvented the wheel.
Great athletes and football players come in all shapes and sizes.
Take Smith-Schuster, for instance
At 6’1” and 215 pounds, he was certainly big enough coming out of college. And while his 4.5 speed wasn’t as impressive as Bryant’s, he wouldn’t have been the first receiver in NFL history to succeed at that gear.
Case-in-point: Smith-Schuster’s rookie season, one in which he quickly began to outpace the struggling Bryant, whose ultra-fast legs somehow failed to take him where they had during the first 21 games of his career.
With 58 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns, the rookie JuJu assumed the No. 2 receiver role about midway through the 2017 campaign. As for Bryant, he quickly became disgruntled and, again, threw a receiver teammate under the bus on social media — this time, JuJu himself.
”JuJu is no where near better than me fool all they need to do is give me what I want and y’all can have juju and who ever else.”
That little slice of Instagram disgruntle, which actually came on the heels of rumors he wanted to be traded, earned Bryant a spot on the deactivated list for a Sunday night game against the Lions in Detroit.
Smith-Schuster made the most of the spotlight, even using his 4.5 speed to score the decisive touchdown on a 97-yard catch and run from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on a play three yards longer than Bryant’s 94-yard touchdown against the Bengals in 2014.
In fairness, Bryant was a good soldier following the trade rumors and his second social media faux pas, and he played decently enough down the stretch.
But that didn’t stop the Steelers from trading him away on draft day, a deal that saw Pittsburgh (perhaps, remarkably) pry a third-round pick from the Raiders’ menacing hands.
As for “who ever else” Bryant said fans could have, it turned out to be Oklahoma State’s James Washington, a receiver the Steelers selected in the second round.
At 5’11” and 213 pounds, Washington doesn’t come into the league screaming Randy Moss potential, but his big-play prowess in college certainly seemed to indicate he plays faster than his official 4.54 time.
It would be a bit premature to say Washington will step right in and be the Steelers’ newest deep threat and make everyone forget about Bryant.
But Bryant began making people forget about him long before Smith-Schuster and Washington came onto the scene. And if recent reports of another possible suspension are true, those menacing Raiders fans won’t soon let new coach Jon Gruden forget he gave up a third-round pick for a troubled receiver who might never spend another day in the NFL--let alone in Silver and Black.
Bryant still has many supporters among the Steelers’ fan base, people who have been waiting for that Randy Moss-like potential to come to fruition.
But Smith-Schuster also has many supporters, and by the time Washington’s rookie season is halfway over, he might become the Steelers’ newest breath of fresh air.
Turns out, Martavis Bryant really was replaced by a second-round pick twice. One pick sent him to the bench. The other pick — more or less — sent him to the Raiders