JuJu Smith-Schuster’s emergence makes disgruntled Martavis Bryant expendable

It’s no secret that Martavis Bryant is growing sick and tired of his reduced role in the Pittsburgh Steelers offense.

Two weeks ago, reports surfaced he was unhappy with his utilization on the field and supposedly requested a trade (Bryant has since refuted those reports). But after only being used in 52% of Pittsburgh’s offensive snaps in Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals, rumblings re-surfaced again of him wanting to be traded.

Following Sunday’s match against the Bengals, Bryant took to Instagram to trash his teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster when a fan declared that his teammate was better than him.

 

 

After deleting the comment, Bryant “called in sick” on Monday, missing the team’s mandatory meetings.

 

 

It’s clear Bryant doesn’t want to be in Pittsburgh any longer and the emergence of rookie receiver Smith-Schuster makes Bryant expendable.

Smith-Schuster, the team’s 2017 second round pick, has outplayed Bryant to this point in the season. The former USC Trojan has 17 catches on 26 targets (65.4%) for 231 yards and three scores on 277 snaps (66.27%). Whereas Bryant has only one score on the season in 285 snaps (68.15%), to go along with a 50% catch rating on his 36 targets.

The rookie wideout has seemingly surpassed Bryant on the depth chart the past three weeks as Smith-Schuster has played 140 snaps, compared the disgruntled receiver’s 131. It starts to make sense once you start breaking down the numbers.

When Ben Roethlisberger is passing the JuJu, his passer rating is a whopping 132.1% and has not thrown an interception. Comparatively, the Roethlisberger-to-Bryant connection is operating at a deflating 68.5% QB rating this year.

The chart below illustrates a comparison of Bryant and Smith-Schuster’s season thus far.

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Before Bryant’s suspension in 2016, he and Antonio Brown were a lethal combination that opposing teams’ secondaries were afraid to play against. But after missing an entire year of football, the 25-year old Clemson Tiger alumnus’ status with the team as irreplaceable has diminished.

In back-to-back weeks there has been a lot of drama surrounding Bryant. After a frustrating start to his 2017 season, it’s conceivable to say the Steelers may be content with replacing Bryant with Smith-Schuster going forward and potentially rid themselves of the burden the former 2014 fourth-round pick has been all season long.

With the Hallowe’en day trade deadline coming up, the Steelers could have busy phone lines over the next week.

Mid-season trades rarely happen in football because of how difficult it is to familiarize a new playbook. Despite this, there are a few wide-receiver needy teams who would love to have Bryant in their lineup.

Below is a list of five teams who could entertain a Bryant trade:

Buffalo Bills
New York Jets
New York Giants
Chicago Bears
San Francisco 49ers

The six-foot-four 211-pound receiver has proven he has the necessary skill set to succeed in this league. Perhaps a change of scenery and an expanded role elsewhere will bring back his passion for football and allow him to become a down-field threat once again.

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