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Roethlisberger finally gets big target in Clemson 4th-rounder Bryant

| Saturday, May 10, 2014, 9:45 p.m.
Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant catches a pass for a first down during against the South Carolina State on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.
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Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant catches a pass for a first down during against the South Carolina State on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

Richard Mann wanted something different. Actually, he knew the Steelers needed something different.

Antonio Brown had 110 catches last year, but he's barely 5-foot-10.

Lance Moore has 26 career red zone touchdowns, but he's 5-9.

Markus Wheaton has potential to be better than both of them, but he's 5-11.

“I have been kind of campaigning for a big receiver through this whole process,” Mann said.

It fell on deaf ears through the first two days of the draft, but Mann got his wish when he, along with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, finally convinced the Steelers to take the big receiver they liked the most in the fourth round — tall and speedy Clemson wide out Martavis Bryant.

“He's just what I've been hunting for,” Mann said.

At 6-4 and possessing 4.42 speed, Bryant is definitely something the Steelers don't have, and haven't had in some time.

“He brings a little stature that is different than most of the guys we have,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “I didn't put into the fact that a tall receiver was necessary — he's a capable receiver.”

Albeit he is somewhat of a project.

Bryant fell into the fourth round (19th receiver selected) because of what Kevin Colbert said was a deep draft at receiver. But being only a one-year wonder, along with being labeled as raw and not sure-handed, might have played into that as well.

“In previous drafts, this kid would've probably have gone late second round,” Colbert said. “He is big and he is fast and he is raw. He has a lot of upside.”

Bryant started only 13 games in his career, but played behind a pair of first-round picks his first two years in DeAndre Hopkins (2013) and Sammy Watkins (2014). When he got into the lineup, he caught 42 passes for 828 yards and seven touchdowns. His 22.2 yards per reception average over his career is an FBS record.

“Boy, is he gifted,” NFL Network's Mike Mayock said. “Watching his pro day, it was he and Watkins putting on a show. Great hands, even though he had a bunch of drops at the beginning of the year. He still has great hands. He's long. He's fast. He jumps.”

And more important for the Steelers is that he provides them two skill sets that they are lacking — a deep threat and a red-zone threat.

Mann is especially drawn to Bryant's red zone abilities. Tomlin is more excited with his deep ball capabilities. Bryant did both well at Clemson.

Six of Bryant's 13 career touchdowns went for 39 yards or longer and eight went for 29 yards or longer. His averaged touchdown catch was an astounding 30.7 yards.

“I know that Big Ben knows how to get the ball down the field and they have had some great receivers over the years,” Bryant said. “He loves throwing the ball deep so I just want to come and help. Help him out and get wins.”

Ben Roethlisberger does like to throw deep, but the success hasn't been there since Mike Wallace left for Miami.

The Steelers had only 10 passes of more than 40 yards last season and only six touchdowns of longer than 29 yards.

“He has excellent speed for a big guy,” Mann said. “Excellent speed. He does a really good job of tracking the ball. He does a good job of what I call putting a hump in his back and catching it over the top. A lot of times guys can't do it, and it is very hard to teach.”

Then there are the red zone issues.

The Steelers had only 18 red zone touchdown receptions last year, but 13 of those came from free agent departures Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders.

“I bring a big threat in the red zone,” Bryant said.

Bryant had four red-zone touchdowns at Clemson with those coming over final six touchdown receptions.

Mann said that a 6-5 receiver allows for some “cheap” touchdowns in the red zone.

“A lot of times people know where the ball is going to go and there is nothing they can do about it,” Mann said. “If there is a mismatch and that's what we think we have with the reach that he has, the arms, and the wingspan, I feel like we can get some cheap touchdowns down there.”

And that's exactly what Mann wants.

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