It is universally hailed as the best trade of the off-season. Martavis Bryant to the Raiders for a third round pick was considered a crime. Then the drug suspension rumors came out, and it became the greatest trade of all time. The hyperbole was at an all-time high with both fans and the media in Pittsburgh. It would’ve have been great if the story ended there, but it didn’t. The drug suspension mysteriously disappeared, and the Steelers never adequately replaced Bryant on the roster. Admittedly, Bryant has not set the world on fire in Oakland. His sixteen catches for 249 yards isn’t much to look at. The situation in Oakland is nothing short of a dumpster fire however. Any player’ stats on that team needs to come with an asterisk.
Part of the genius of the trade is that the Steelers had supposedly replaced Bryant in the draft. Second round pick James Washington was a big play machine at Oklahoma St. Washington was going to be the answer at the Z wide receiver spot, and we’d never notice the difference. Well, not so much. As bad as Bryant’s stats are in the dysfunctional Oakland offense, Washington’s are worse. Some of us saw this coming. The Big 12 is infamous for not playing any defense whatsoever. Games regularly get into the 40’s and big plays are the norm. Piling up stats against terrible defenses was the first red flag. Next, Washington tested slightly above average at the combine. So we shouldn’t be shocked that a shorter, average athlete is struggling in the NFL. Nobody is writing off James Washington completely, but he is not what this team needs in 2018. I won’t waste anyone’s time on Justin Hunter either. He never was, or never will be the answer for anything in the NFL.
The player who misses Martavis Bryant more than anyone else on the team is Antonio Brown. Even when Bryant and Roethlisberger struggled to get on the same page, teams could not ignore how easily Bryant got behind defenders on tape. Double covering AB was would come at a cost, and teams knew it. This season Brown regularly sees two defenders on him, and the team still has had trouble getting him the ball for long stretches. Ironically, there was a point where the Steelers could have had Bryant back for nothing after the Raiders cut him earlier this season. For whatever reason the Steelers didn’t act, and that third reciever spot remains the one weakness on the offense.
Maybe Martavis Bryant would have never worked out in Pittsburgh. It’s entirely possible that he had made himself impossible to deal with for this team. The point being, is the trade as big a success if the team didn’t replace that position in the short term? Is the extra third round pick worth not going into this season with all their weapons in hand? Had the team signed a deep threat receiver like John Brown for instance, this trade would look much better for this season. There’s no arguing a third round pick was tremendous value for a player like Martavis Bryant in the long run. But when trying to keep pace with teams like the Rams, Saints, Chiefs, and Patriots in 2018, give me Martavis Bryant any day.