Just a few months ago, Martavis Bryant made news waves by reportedly requesting a trade because he was unhappy with his role in the offense upon returning from a year-long suspension. He then made comments the next week about rookie receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on Instagram saying “JuJu ain’t better than me.” Head coach Mike Tomlin decided to make Bryant an inactive against the Detroit Lions for his actions.
Steelers’ nation had quickly turned on Bryant as it seemed he had a pretty selfish attitude for someone who was given a second chance after multiple drug suspensions and sitting out an entire year due to failing multiple drug tests two offseasons ago. Now, I think he deserves at least a bit of a reprieve.
While Smith-Schuster has seemingly emerged as the second wide receiver on the depth chart, he is best suited as an inside slot receiver. Without Antonio Brown, the Steelers were without a highly prolific wide receiver on the outside, forcing Bryant to step up.
After Brown got hurt early in the Steelers’ matchup with the Patriots, Bryant has been pretty effective racking up 184 yards and a touchdown on 13 receptions. When the trio of wideouts is healthy and playing together, they are as deadly as any in the league. Brown is the best in the game. Smith-Schuster has been electric as a rookie and seemingly has caught anything thrown his way. Bryant is tall and can use his speed and height to make big plays.
Bryant is a restricted free agent at season’s end so his fate in the Steelers’ hands. It was widely believed they’d let him walk when the season is over and that very well could still be the case. Tomlin was quoted saying “I’m not” after being asked whether Bryant could help the team down the stretch after he was made an inactive. Truthfully, Bryant’s season has taken a 180 and he has been very good as of late.
Of course, if the Steelers can make it past their Divisional Round opponent and into the AFC Championship game with the three wide receivers all healthy and available, it’s hard to bet against the Steelers despite their struggles in Foxborough. Smith-Schuster and Bryant both proved to be a problem for the Patriots even with Brown missing the majority of the game.
Maybe a Super Bowl and his evidently repaired relationship with the young Smith-Schuster would help Bryant smell the roses and take a reduced role in the offense that could do some big things in the coming years. Or, maybe Bryant uses this to boost his own profile and take his talents elsewhere for some more money.
Regardless, Bryant has proven that he can play when he’s 100% in and willing to keep his mouth quiet. My original resentment towards Bryant has faded and thus, yours should too.