By Will Vandervort / Photo: fans speak.com.
This time last year, many were wondering if Martavis Bryant made the right move by declaring himself early for the NFL Draft.
After his two-touchdown performance in Clemson’s Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State some thought he could return to the Tigers and lift himself to first-round status in the 2015 NFL Draft. But for monetary reasons, and the simple fact he did not like school and all that involved being a student athlete, Bryant declared himself eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft and left for the NFL.
He eventually landed in Pittsburgh where the Steelers took him in the fourth round. His rookie year was arguably better than that of former Clemson teammate Sammy Watkins, who Buffalo selected as the No. 4 overall pick, as Bryant caught eight touchdown passes, while becoming Ben Roethlisberger’s best vertical threat.
Now, one year removed from all the questions and doubters, Bryant is expected to be one of the Steelers’ best offensive players in 2015. Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley told the Steelers Nation Unite’s “Weekly Huddle” fan forum on Wednesday Bryant will have every opportunity this summer to become the Steelers’ No. 2 wide receiver, behind All-Pro Antonio Brown, who led the NFL in receptions and yards in 2014.
“We are looking for him to come in and make a push against Markus Wheaton for that No. 2 spot and continue to give us big-time production, specifically in the red area where a big target like that can make a big impact,” Haley said in a story written by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Haley called Bryant’s performance last season a “big thing” because he really jumped started the Steelers’ offense. He pushed hard to have the Steelers draft him and continued to believe in Bryant’s ability even when the rookie was inactive the first six games of the season.
But with the help of Haley and Roethlisberger, Bryant was activated for the Houston game on a Monday night (Oct.20) and the former Tiger responded by catching a 35-yard touchdown pass – his first catch as a pro. He caught five more touchdowns after that during the next three games, becoming the only player in NFL history to score a touchdown in his first four games as a pro.
With Bryant in the lineup, the Steelers were 8-3 and scored more than 31 points a game. He finished the season with26 receptions for 549 yards and his eight scores.
“When young guys come in at the receiver position and contribute early like he did, it is a big thing,” Haley said. “He took a lot of pressure off Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton … he really had a big impact on our offense.
“He is a guy we are going to work real hard throughout the offseason and, like all young players, he should make progress from year one to year two.”
Bryant concluded the season with five receptions for 61 yards in the Steelers’ playoff loss to Baltimore.