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Kaboly: Haley expecting Bryant to push Wheaton for No. 2 receiver spot

Photo by Christopher Horner

Photo by Christopher Horner

Martavis Bryant put up plenty of big plays for the Steelers last year.

So much so that the Steelers are planning to give Bryant every opportunity this summer to claim the No. 2 receiver spot currently held by Markus Wheaton.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who pushed hard for the Steelers to draft Bryant last year, called what Bryant was able to do during the second half of last season a “big thing” during a 30-minute Steelers Nation Unite ‘Weekly Huddle’ fan forum session on Wednesday.

“We are looking for him to come in and make a push against Markus Wheaton for that No. 2 spot and continue give us big-time production, specifically in the red area where a big target like that can make a big impact,” Haley said.

Bryant, the Steelers fourth-round pick out of Clemson in 2014, was inactive for the first six games before reeling off six touchdowns during his first four professional games starting with a key 35-yard touchdown reception against Houston on Oct. 20.

Bryant played in 10 games, started three and finished with 26 receptions for 549 yards and 8 touchdowns. Bryant added 5 receptions, 61 yards and a touchdown in the playoff loss to the Ravens.

With Bryant in the lineup, the Steelers were 8-3. Without him, they are 3-3

“When young guys come in at the receiver position and contribute early like he did, it is a big thing,” Haley said. “He took a lot of pressure off Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton … he really had a big impact on our offense. He is a guy we are going to work real hard throughout the offseason and, like all young players, he should make progress from year one to year two.”

Haley also broached other topics including:


RE: The roles of DeAngelo Williams and Josh Harris?

“Obviously, Le’Veon (Bell) is our guy so he’s going to get the majority of the touches on all downs – first, second and third downs. Not having a great background with DeAngelo but knowing his history of playing a long time in the league and being very productive in basically a two-back system. We are excited to have him but we are also excited about the guys who have been here like Josh Harris and Dri Archer. It will make for a very interesting offseason and training camp to see how it plays out. I believe the more competition the better. It usually brings out the best in people.”


RE: Finding a place for Dri Archer

“Dri is a unique talent because he is probably the fastest guy on the field wherever we go. At the same time he is in a little bit of a difficult spot because we have a guy in Le’Veon who is capable and you really want on the field as much as possible. In a lot of places where you have running backs coming off the field, Le’Veon tends to get stronger as the games goes on. You hate to ever take him off the field. I am a big believer of putting your best 11 guys on the field as many snaps as you can. That put Dri in a little big of a difficult spot being a rookie coming from a little smaller school. When you get guys like that, sometimes the transition time is a little longer than we all would like, himself included. I really feel with a year under his belt even though there wasn’t great production anywhere. A year, plus another offseason and training camp, a full room in an NFL weight room, I think Dri will come back more experienced and still has that outstanding characteristic of speed. The important thing is that we do have a role for him if he is going to have a helmet on Sundays and he gets his five and six touches a game. Any one of those plays he has the chance to take it to the house with that speed. Let’s just have a little patience and let him continue to develop and we will definitely have a plan to get him touches throughout the season.”


RE: On Markus Wheaton’s development?

“From a developmental standpoint, I have always been taught and believe that year three is the most important in a guy’s development in what he’s going to be. As this year progresses we will have a real good idea of where Markus is and are all excited where he is going. We were excited with what we did but are probably more excited of what we are capable of doing.”


RE: What the offense needs to improve?

“We did a lot of good things but there are a number of things that we can be a lot better at. First and foremost is the red area. We did a great job of getting into the red area a bunch and that’s one of the keys that we focus on. We just need to turn some of those field goals into touchdowns.”


RE: On Kelvin Beachum

“He does everything possible to be as good as he can on a daily basis. (Antonio Brown) gets a lot of credit for being the hardest worker on the team, which he probably is, but Kelvin isn’t much behind him. He leaves no stone unturned when it comes to his pursuit of being as good as he possibly can.”


RE: On if Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the NFL?

“I think he was the best last year and he is looking to improve with what he did last year and if he does, he can be setting even more records.”




Author: Mark Kaboly

Mark Kaboly is the Pittburgh Steelers beat writer for the Tribune-Review. Mark has covered more than 300 NFL football games in all 32 NFL cities as well as four Super Bowls -- XL in Detroit, XLIII in Tampa, XLV in Dallas and 50 in San Francisco. A Belle Vernon Area graduate, Mark earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a specialization in journalism from California University of Pennsylvania. Mark lives in Port Vue with his wife, Jennifer; daughter Briella; and boys Rocco and Bugsley Pug

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