Dunlap: Martavis Needs To Shape Up

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – So you probably woke up to the reports — just like I did.

The first came from NFL Network, it was confirmed by ESPN and then locally and the salacious headline was too good to not be, well, salacious.

Apparently, Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant requested a trade in the recent past. He isn’t happy with how he’s being used in the Steelers’ offense, not excited about his role or function this season as he’s back from that one-year drug suspension.

Naturally, late Sunday night Bryant took to Twitter and said he likes being a Pittsburgh Steeler.

Then on Monday in a press availability he said he didn’t make such a request. But, I mean, what’s the guy going to say now?

Alright, let’s have a think about this one …

No matter who you believe in all of this (and I tend to believe the reports as Bryant hasn’t been the most trustworthy guy in the past) one thing appears to be incredibly clear as the Steelers have now completed six games with a 4-2 record: Bryant isn’t anywhere near the explosive player many thought he would be upon his return.

Where is that dynamic burst?

Where have those splash plays been?

Where is the guy playing with a bit of urgency as he’s someone who should be out to prove to the NFL that he is ultra-hungry after missing last season?

Has he broken one tackle yet?

Why does he shy away from so much contact?

How come JuJu Smith-Schuster seems to have leapfrogged him on the depth chart, becoming someone quarterback Ben Roethlisberger appears to have more trust in now?

Why does Bryant really only catch passes that are thrown right into his breadbasket?

To me, these are all good questions and, to be frank, even bigger than all this stuff about wanting traded. But all these questions get exacerbated when there is some scuttlebutt about an unhappy employee, as there is here with Bryant.

You see, after that Week 2 performance against the Minnesota Vikings where Bryant pulled in three passes for 91 yards and hit that huge 51-yard gainer I was sure he was a guy who had his mojo back; he was someone who had found that groove again to where he would become a powerful weapon for the Steelers.

Now, though, he looks like just another guy who shows the occasional splash.

That isn’t at all what we thought he’d be. We thought he’d be a lot more.

He caught two passes each against Kansas City and Chicago, pulled in three against Baltimore and five against Jacksonville. The past four weeks he is averaging 31.5 yards receiving per game and hasn’t scored a touchdown, all the while failing to live up to the hype of the guy who was going to complement Antonio Brown.

Certainly, some of this is on Roethlisberger, who has missed Bryant a few times, particularly on deep balls, but for me a larger balance rests with Bryant, who just isn’t showing the grit, tenacity and sharp route-running to get open the way Brown incessantly does.

In short, is Bryant showing you that he wants to make a real difference? Because with my eyes, I’m seeing someone go through the motions on Sundays.

So it really is of little consequence who you believe in all this Martavis-Bryant-wants-a-trade saga. That isn’t the main issue here. What is the much deeper and more pressing issue is the Steelers’ offense hasn’t received anywhere near the output from him that they expected.

And that — no matter who you believe in all of this trade stuff — is the issue.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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