Following the first full week of preseason action, NFL.com's Bucky Brooks handed out grades for a player from each NFL team, and for the Pittsburgh Steelers the lucky player was wide receiver Martavis Bryant. Yes, the wide receiver who hauled in a 44-yard Ben Roethlisberger pass to score a touchdown to cap off a 6-play, three-minute 80-yard drive.
Brooks grade for Bryant? A B-plus. See Brooks' justification on the grade.
Martavis Bryant, WR
Strengths: The second-year pro is already viewed as one of the NFL's most dangerous deep threats, but he continues to show scouts that he has a knack for getting behind the defense on vertical throws. Bryant's 44-yard touchdown catch against the Jaguars on Friday was the latest example of how he can blow past defenders on go routes.
Weaknesses: Bryant is still a work in progress as a route runner. The tall, rangy athlete is at his best executing speed cuts (routes that allow the receiver to stay on the move instead of breaking down and re-directing). But he needs to be able run the entire route tree to be a standout WR1 or WR2 as a pro.
What he needs to work on: Bryant is an intriguing player with an impressive set of skills. Already slated for a big role as a deep threat, he could crack the Steelers' starting lineup by demonstrating more attention to detail as a route runner.
The criticism of Bryant's route running is certainly valid. The biggest cut on Bryant coming out of Clemson was his raw talent and lack of precision, especially in route running. Even after just one preseason game, you can tell Bryant has improved on this skill. It may not show up on the 44-yard pass play, but he most certainly has worked on honing his skills.
When it comes to route running, Bryant has possibly the best route runner in the NFL sitting in the meeting rooms with him on a daily basis. Antonio Brown is the perfect mentor for a young player like Bryant, and Brown's tireless work ethic has certainly rubbed off on Bryant.
The one aspect which most fans and experts fail to realize is the Steelers don't need Bryant to be able to run every route in the route tree right now. What they need him to do is what he does best. Take the top off the defense, run the shallow dig routes, fades in the red-zone and bubble screens where his size can gain valuable yards after the catch. Him running those routes will only open up opportunities for the better route runners on the team like Markus Wheaton and Brown.
Bryant was given a B-plus after the Jacksonville Jaguars game. It might have been unfair to give the second year wide receiver an A, but anything short of that grade seems to be nit picking.