The Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pro Football writers association named Martavis Bryant winner of the “Joe Greene Great Performance Award” aka Steelers rookie of the year award.
- Where there was some drama over who would win the Steelers MVP award, Bryant as Steelers Rookie of the Year was a more obvious choice.
Both Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown had strong cases as MVP candidates, but eventual winner Le’Veon Bell’s was ultimately stronger. Bryant however, had far less competition and his story shows how unpredictable the evolution of rookies in the NFL came be.
The Steelers surprised and shocked most of the NFL (Jim Wexell excepted) when they chose Ryan Shazier in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. They took the unusual step of installing him as the immediate starter during mini-camp. Shazier debuted in preseason with a bang in indeed started the Steelers first 3 games.
- But Shazier got injured vs. Carolina, and missed the lion’s share of the middle of the season.
By the time he’d return to full health, he found himself below Sean Spence and Vince Williams on the depth chart. Shazier wasn’t the only rookie who generated pre-season buzz, as the weakness on the Steelers defensive line led to talk about Stephon Tuitt and Dan McCullers getting snaps as they ultimately did.
- While both Tuitt and McCullers have contributed on defense, their efforts pale in comparison to Martavis Bryant’s.
Bryant began his NFL receiving career by catching a 35 yard bomb from Ben Roethlisberger that helped spark a Steelers rally past the Houston Texans. He went on to score 6 touchdowns in his next 4 games, a record for an NFL rookie, and added another 94 yard touchdown vs. Cincinnati.
It would be wrong to say that Bryant has played like an immediate superstar, despite the star power implied in his touchdown grabs. Bryant has also committed some key drops, and been out of position at critical times, as you’d expect a rookie to be.
- There’s no denying however, that the Steelers offense is much more dynamic with Martavis Bryant playing.
As Steel Curtain Rising observed in 2009 when Mike Wallace won the Steelers rookie of the year award, winning the Joe Greene Great Performance Award is no guarantee of a successful career.
Some players, such as Carnell Lake and Chad Brown, the 1989 and 1993 winner did very well for themselves. Other’s such as Jon Witman and Kendall Simmons, winners in 1996 and 2002 have gone on to more pedestrian careers. While others yet have been complete flops, such as 1987 and 1999 winners Delton Hall Troy Edwards.
The Tomlin era is no exception. Patrick Bailey won the award in 2008, Maurkice Pouncey won it in 2010, Marcus Gilbert won in 2011, Mike Adams won in 2012 and Le’Veon Bell won in 2013.
Regardless of how things turn out from here forward, Steelers rookie of the year Martavis Bryant is most deserving of the honor.