Monday, October 26, 2015

Martavis Bryant gives Steelers a second No. 1 receiver

Jeremy Fowler, ESPN Senior NFL Writer
October 24, 2015
Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant runs after a first-quarter catch against the Chiefs on Sunday
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This 23-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs is hardly devastating for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Chiefs were due, the Steelers couldn’t create turnovers on defense and the quarterback was Landry Jones. And the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns are way out of the AFC North playoff picture.
More good news: The Steelers appear to have two No. 1 receivers.
Call Martavis Bryant "1A."
That Antonio Brown returned to his normal pace with 124 yards and Bryant is starting to match him in targets creates a cozy spot for Ben Roethlisberger to slip back into upon his return from a knee injury.
Bryant simply looks the part -- big, tall, fast, physical.
Bryant leads the Steelers with three touchdown catches in two weeks, each one spectacular, securing a bobble Sunday while getting two feet in off a Jones fade late in the third quarter. What’s more revealing: Brown and Bryant are tied for receiving targets with 16 apiece in the past two weeks.
Bryant now has 11 touchdowns in 12 career games, and with 34 career receptions, he’s scoring on 32.4 percent of his catches.
"It's having trust in knowing the work will always pay off in the game if you do it in practice," Bryant said.
What it means: High-level quarterback play should never be overrated. The Steelers have elite weapons all over the field and a good offensive coordinator yet have struggled to score points for much of the past four weeks, scoring their first touchdown Sunday with 1:40 left in the third quarter. Roethlisberger has a good chance to return for the divisional matchup against Cincinnati Bengals. That return couldn’t be more welcome.
Roethlisberger said after the game he was "pretty close" to fully participating in practices last week and his availability will remain day-to-day.
"There are a lot dynamics that come into him coming back," left guard Ramon Foster said. "But we know the playmaker that he is."
What were they thinking? Jones was destined for one bad mistake, but his interception at the end of the first half was especially baffling, as he threw into a sea of Chiefs red. There were at least four defenders around the ball. Luckily, the mistake didn’t cost the Steelers points on the other end.
One reason to get excited: There’s still a lot to like about the Steelers' defense even though it gave up 23 points to Kansas City, which was sort of expected because the Steelers are getting minimal offensive help. The difference in the game was the Steelers couldn’t create turnovers on Sunday and gave up 100-plus rushing yards. But they made things difficult for Kansas City, and several players applied consistent quarterback pressure. A good sign: The defense was upset about giving up 138 rushing yards. "It's unacceptable," defensive end Cam Heyward said.
One reason to panic: The missed tackles were odd. There were too many of them, leading to Chiefs players streaking down the sideline. Cornerback Antwon Blake and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones both whiffed on a big play late in the first half.
Fantasy watch: The Steelers are getting nothing from their offensive supporting cast. Heath MillerMarkus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey have combined for four catches for 29 yards the past two weeks. That needs to improve for sustained success on offense. The Steelers forced a fade to Bryant in the red zone because Jones was out of options. Don’t play any of those three right now.
Ouch: Blake was evaluated for a concussion in the first half but returned to the game. Cornerback William Gay suffered a shoulder injury late in the game.

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