If the Pittsburgh Steelers plan to achieve their goal of scoring 30 points per game this season, Martavis Bryant will be asked to play a starring role.
The second-year wideout is already earning rave reviews at camp, with Bryant telling NFL Media's Albert Breer on Monday that he added nearly 20 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-4 frame. Now at 225 -- he played closer to 211 pounds last season -- the bulked-up fourth-rounder is down to four percent body fat and showing the signs of a more balanced playmaker.
"We threw him a lot of deep passes (last season), that was kind of his go-to catch," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Monday, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Now we can throw it to all areas."
Bryant's on-field work at Monday's practice led Yahoo's Charles Robinson to note that "he looks amazing" and "absolutely has made big strides this offseason."
Inactive over the first six games of his rookie campaign, Bryant accounted for two-plus catches in eight of his final 11 appearances down the stretch. His four-grab, 143-yard outburst against the Jets in Week 10 and a four-reception, 109-yard outing against the Bengals in Week 14 point to a juicy ceiling. Bryant also topped the NFL with 21.1 yards per grab and showed enticing deep-threat ability -- hauling in three of Big Ben's five longest completions in 2014.
As Kevin Patra noted in Bryant's Making the Leap post, the wideout's 4.42 speed helped him scorch defenses more attuned to the movements of All-Pro pass-catcher Antonio Brown and star running Le'Veon Bell. While operating as a red-zone threat, Bryant also used his wheels to slaughter secondaries with plays like the 94-yard burner below:
He 'wants to be great'
"I'm coming into it with more confidence, more focus, more attention to detail, so I can become a better player," Bryant told the Post-Gazette this week. "The season is coming fast, so a lot of the work we put in now will pay off in a couple days."
Knocked in the pre-draft process for his 19.1 drop percentage at Clemson, Bryant posted a problematic 13.3 drop rate as a rookie -- something he's worked on. Bryant has also focused on his overall game by studying with Brown and improving his footwork by "running routes in the sand, the beach, the sand pit, wherever."
We've already hoisted up Bryant for a big season, but it's especially encouraging to see a young wideout work to make his body more NFL-ready, impressing Roethlisberger as "a guy that wants to be good, wants to be great, every day."
We'll miss on a rash of our Making the Leap candidates, but Bryant feels destined to feast in an offense set to challenge Green Bay as the NFL's most prolific attack in 2015.