A play-making receiver is a quarterback's best friend.
With that being said, it's safe to say that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is quite fond of rookie receiver Martavis Bryant.
In just seven games, the Clemson product has tallied 21 receptions for 453 yards and seven touchdowns for an average of one touchdown catch every three receptions. He has scored touchdowns in four games, including a momentum-changing, 94-yard touchdown catch in the Steelers' 42-21 win over Cincinnati on Sunday. He scored a touchdown in his very first NFL game and had five touchdowns in his first three weeks as a pro, as Pittsburgh won each game. He has tallied two 100-yard games and is No.1 in the NFL with an average of 21.6 yards per reception for receivers having at least 20 catches.
Bryant has more than held his own when compared to fellow rookie receivers Sammy Watkins and Kelvin Benjamin. Watkins, Bryant's teammate at Clemson and the fourth overall pick in last year's draft, has 58 grabs for 822 yards for the Bills but has two fewer touchdowns than Bryant. Bryant only has two fewer touchdowns (and the same amount of 100-yard games) than Benjamin, another first-round pick that has played in all 13 games for the Panthers, recording 848 yards on 59 catches thus far.
The most important statistic associated with Bryant is 5-2. That's the Steelers record when No.10 suits up for the Black-and-Gold. There's no question that the 6'4'' Bryant has been a difference-maker for the Steelers.
The question now is how high is Bryant's ceiling? How good can he become and what role will he most likely assume on this team?
At this moment, Bryant is a home run hitter. His size enables him to break free from defensive backs at the line of scrimmage. His 4.4 speed (which I think is an overrated statistic since Bryant plays much faster than his 40-time) creates separation and stretches the field for the Steelers' offense. Defenses now have to account for Bryant whenever he's in the game, which means opposing defenses can't stack the box, thus enabling Bell to do his thing on the ground. Simply put, when you have a play-making, home run threat on the field, it creates a plethora of advantages for an offense.
One thing we all knew about Bryant from the outset was that he was still a raw player. He recorded only 61 catches at Clemson while playing second fiddle to Watkins. Bryant becomes a stronger route-runner and continues to build his rapport with Roethlisberger, he could become a dominant player and a very strong No.2 receiver to Antonio Brown. He'll never rack up a ton of catches playing alongside Brown, but that's not what the Steelers need from Bryant. His job is to continue to make big plays when called upon, much like Plaxico Burress was able to do when he played alongside Hines Ward. And with Markus Wheaton putting together a solid season himself (he has 43 catches for 534 yards thus far and has really reminded me of former Steeler No.3 receiver Nate Washington), it appears the future of the Steelers' receiving unit is bright indeed.