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Steelers’ offense still not fully utilizing Martavis Bryant’s strengths

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have a legitimate weapon they haven’t fully unleashed yet.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After a full year away from football, Martavis Bryant has returned to the Steelers and many expected him to pick up where he left off. When he didn’t, fans wondered just what was going on.

After such a long layoff, it seems as if the days when Bryant would catch a screen or intermediate pass and take it the distance are a thing of the past. Not that the dynamic wideout can’t regain his form but, at this point, the thought of Bryant taking over games might be nothing more than fond memories.

It should be noted, however, that the Steelers’ offense isn’t utilizing Bryant to his full capabilities.

Think about Bryant’s strengths as a wide receiver:

  • Size and speed to out-jump smaller defensive backs
  • Straight line speed to run past defenders
  • Big body to use inside leverage on in-cutting routes

These aren’t his only strengths, but the ones which seem to be lost on Todd Haley and his offense, as Bryant’s usage continues to emulate banging your head against a wall.

In the Week-12 win over the Packers, where Bryant was the most visible he’d been since the Week-2 win over the Minnesota Vikings, take a look at Bryant’s targets, by location.

Short Left:
2 targets, 1 catch, 10 yards

Short Middle:
1 target, 0 catches, 0 yards

Short Right:
2 targets, 2 catches, 13 yards

Deep Left:
1 target, 1 catch, 17 yards, 1 touchdown

Deep Middle:
0 targets, 0 catches, 0 yards

Deep Right:
0 targets, 0 catches, 0 yards

Bryant’s game improved in Week 12 vs. Green Bay, and likely because he was given more of a chance to play with JuJu Smith-Schuster out of the game with a hamstring injury. But some of these numbers just don’t make sense.

The Packers were essentially daring the Steelers to throw the ball to Bryant, often facing single coverage with extra help being given to cover Antonio Brown on the other side of the field. Despite this circumstance, there was only one target to Bryant over the middle of the field, and only one deep target in the entire game.

For a man who’s made a living running past defenders, and with the Packers’ secondary banged up, the Steelers never really tested Green Bay in this area, other than Bryant’s lone touchdown catch.

The fact remains, Martavis Bryant is a threat every time he steps onto the field. Big plays can and should occur when JuJu Smith-Schuster joins Brown and Bryant on the field, but if the team wants to fully unleash the beast, they need to allow him to do what he does best—things like running those routes where he can utilize his skill set. Think back to the post pattern vs. the Vikings which went for a touchdown as a good example of how No. 10 can be a difference-maker for the Steelers.