clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Steelers have to get Martavis Bryant the ball

New, comments

Despite the risk of challenging Baltimore's fierce pass rush head-on, the Steelers have to incorporate a few shots down the field to rookie WR Martavis Bryant.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

This game has higher-than-usual levels of tension and anticipation, even for the great Steelers/Ravens rivalry.

Both teams sit at 5-3, neither can afford another divisional loss. Sitting at 6-3 and matching step with division-leading Cincinnati is far more appealing than joining Cleveland just above (or at) .500 in a hotly competitive division and conference isn't all that great.

Make no mistake, there won't be a .500 team in the AFC playoffs this year. It might even end up that 9-7 finishes out of the running.

That's why it's critical for the Steelers to get everything they can out of wide receiver Martavis Bryant.

We know how Ben Roethlisberger plays against the Ravens. Same for Joe Flacco. Both quarterbacks are perfectly capable of making good throws at key times. The guy catching that throw has often proved to be the difference in these games. Owen Daniels and Steve Smith combined to work the Steelers' midrange coverage in a big 26-6 Week 2 win in Baltimore. Last year, Charlie Batch made the throws but, in 2012, it was Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders who put themselves in position to capture a win.

Bryant will have, at times, the best matchup advantage of any player on the field. The Ravens have been getting substandard coverage from a group of overwhelmed safeties-turned-cover-corners. The Steelers will use wide receiver Antonio Brown the same way they usually do, but the pre-snap motion they usually use will serve to identify how the Ravens plan to cover Bryant.

And if it's something Roethlisberger likes, they've got to take a shot down the field.

Bryant's speed is more impressive on the field than it was at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine when he ran a 4.41 40-yard dash. His athleticism is even more impressive. He may not have the fluidity necessary to properly sell a double-move or to lean a defensive back outside when running an in-route, but he can definitely run the fly.

He has great ability to grab passes over a defender in the end zone, but in his limited amount of experience so far, he's created good separation. He has shown another level of speed after he reaches the defensive back that's unrivaled by anyone in the Steelers' roster. There's no cushion big enough to prevent Bryant from getting past a defensive back.

He has the ability to make a significant impact in this game, and in this season. The Steelers have clearly recognized this, getting him on the field against Houston in Week 7 for a handful of snaps, but increasing his role even more in Week 8. He and starting split-end Markus Wheaton had 33 and 34 snaps against the Colts respectively. Both scored touchdowns in Roethlisberger's obliteration of the Steelers' record books, but Bryant is the better deep-option of the two.

It's the best weapon the Steelers will have in this game and, if used properly, we'll remember it as the Arrival Party for the rookie from Clemson.