Steelers rookie receiver Bryant staking claim for roster spot
On paper and in physical testing, Martavis Bryant has all the makings of a serviceable NFL wide receiver.
The fourth-round draft pick's attributes match up with just about anyone's. Bryant (6-foot-4, 211 pounds) has a 39-inch vertical and has been measured at 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash – fifth best among all wide receivers at the NFL Combine.
His physical capabilities give him a chance to contribute as a skill player. Getting there is a question of consistency.
“(Bryant is) another guy with a lot of talent who really needs to refine it into skill,” Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “He's a young guy, but he is big and fast, and he shows a flash every day.”
After stringing together a series of impressive catches Saturday in what Bryant admitted was his best practice with the Steelers, Bryant again had the crowd at Chuck Noll Field buzzing Sunday. In an 11-on-11 drill, Bryant easily maneuvered past rookie cornerback Lew Toler and lunged for a full-extension, 30-yard catch on a ball thrown by quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
Bryant said he knows he can't be satisfied this early in camp.
”I don't want to be complacent. I just have to continue to work,” Bryant said Sunday. “(I'm) just working on my routes and becoming independent so they can trust me during the games.”
In the first iteration of the Steelers' 2014 depth chart, Bryant was listed behind Antonio Brown, Justin Brown and Darrius Heyward-Bey, who suffered a concussion Saturday, in the “other” category at the first wide receiver position. Moving up the ranks and earning a few throws in his direction this season will require more precise route-running and developing the trust that comes from regularly hanging onto the football.
“As (Bryant) starts getting more comfortable and not thinking so much, we'll see the special player he could be,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.
A glaring negative on his Combine report was that he has “shaky hands.” Bryant ran his 40-yard dash one-hundredth of a second faster than fellow Clemson wide receiver and No. 4 overall draft pick Sammy Watkins, but he showed less consistency and body control than his more prolific teammate. Bryant amassed 828 receiving yards to Watkins' 1,219 during the Tigers' 2013 campaign.
“As I continue to practice and get better, it'll come faster,” Bryant said. “As long as I just keep working hard, everything will fall into place.”
Andrew Erickson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.