Once again the Pittsburgh Steelers have stuck to their plan, landing a potential star in the 2014 NFL draft. After a big run of cornerbacks and wide receivers in the fourth round, the Steelers went on the clock with some decisions to make.
It would have been easy to pull the trigger on either position, but with so many off the board, the choice had to be a smart one. Pittsburgh made a very wise decision by selecting the other Clemson wide receiver, Martavis Bryant, with pick No. 118.
At 6’4”, Bryant casts a long shadow on the football field. His length is elite, even in this draft class. His production was mediocre, but that was hardly his fault. When you have to play opposite Sammy Watkins, you understand that your opportunities will be limited. And what Bryant did was make the very most of the targets he got.
But wait a minute? Don’t the Steelers already have their starting wide receivers all figured out? And they just drafted talented youngster Markus Wheaton in 2013. Don’t they need to give him a shot?
The answer to all those questions is yes. But that doesn’t matter. Even with Lance Moore and Wheaton on the roster, Bryant brings a dynamic that neither can approach.
Last season, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leaned on wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery in the red zone. With him gone, Bryant gives Big Ben a weapon he can just throw it up to and let the receiver come down with it.
That’s not to say Bryant isn’t without flaws. Pittsburgh will have to bring him along slowly as he struggled last year with some untimely drops and lapses in concentration. Pittsburgh drafted him at the expense of a cornerback here, so how he plays is going to be watched closely.
But what will Pittsburgh do with Bryant? Initially, he is likely the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart out of the gate. That doesn’t mean he won’t see the field. Pittsburgh isn’t afraid to trot out four-wide sets, especially against odd fronts to get the matchups they want. Bryant could see himself in the slot or outside opposite of Antonio Brown in these situations.
Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review likes Bryant across from Brown as well:
#Steelers take WR Martavis Bryant, a taller option to play opposite Antonio Brown. He's 6-foot-3 1/2, averaged 20 yds/catch at Clemson.— Alan Robinson (@arobinson_Trib) May 10, 2014
The attention that Brown draws should give Bryant plenty of chances against single coverage. And something we have come to understand is that if you can prove you can catch the football, Roethlisberger is going to throw it to you.
Who will start opposite Antonio Brown in 2014?
This pick could end up blowing up in the Steelers’ collective faces. If they cannot bring in adequate talent at cornerback later in this draft, this will be the pick that critics will point to as when the team should have added a corner.
The Pittsburgh front office gets high marks for identifying a player who can help the team win and drafting him. However, if you are looking for rookie production out of Bryant, you might be disappointed.
The competition between Bryant and Wheaton during camp and preseason should be interesting. Also, if Bryant shows promise, he could make Darrius Heyward-Bey quite expendable.