After a promising year, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant faces a one-year suspension for substance abuse. Per ESPN, the suspension is related to NFL drug testing. Bryant’s agent, Tom Santanello, confirmed Saturday that the speedy receiver is planning to appeal the suspension.
The Steelers had a good idea Bryant was facing a suspension. The franchise re-signed veteran wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey to a three-year contract, just prior to the start of the new league year. Additionally, the signing of unrestricted free agent tight end Ladarius Green now looks like a smart move as well.
Bryant was suspended four games to start the 2015 season after failing multiple drug tests. After being suspended, he traveled to Houston, Texas, to rehab with John Lucas, a former athlete who struggled with drug addiction. Art Rooney II expressed earlier this year that the team would stand by him and help him in any way possible.
“Martavis is a player who has tremendous ability and potential,” Rooney said concerning Bryant, via Fox Sports. “We have to continue to work with him to make sure he takes care of his business off the field and put himself in position to be as great a player he can be. He is one of those guys where the sky is the limit. I hope the experience he had earlier in the season had an impact on him, but it is one of those things that only time will tell.”
Coming back from the suspension, Bryant seemed anxious to put the mistakes behind him and face the future with a clean slate.
“It was rocky. It was a rough start. I would say I learned a lot, got better and matured.I would say I learned how to keep myself motivated and just stay consistent.”
Bryant is an important cog within the Steelers’ high-powered offense. Bryant, a 2014 fourth-round draft pick from Clemson, caught 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns last season after missing games because of his suspension. He was held from a fifth because the Steelers deemed him not yet ready to play to open the season.
Over the past two seasons, Bryant has 76 catches for 1,314 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also caught 14 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers’ two playoff games last season. His production will be hard to duplicate.
As stated in the new marijuana policy adopted by the NFL in 2014, after a four-game suspension for multiple violations the next violation should prompt a 10-game suspension. Bryant may have violated the policy twice since his suspension last year. The substance abuse policy, however, also prompts a one-year suspension for “failure to cooperate with testing, treatment, evaluation or other requirements” or a positive test for a substance other than marijuana.
Another of Bryant’s agents, Brian Fettner, explained he is fighting depression and plans to enter rehab Sunday for evaluation.
“We’re all stunned, me included,” Fettner said. “We clearly miscalculated the issue. His isn’t a party issue. It’s a coping issue and a depression issue, and he’s got to take care of it.”
Fettner went on to say how serious the situation is. He described Bryant as being despondent and withdrawn from daily life.
“This is the biggest cry for help I’ve ever seen. And that hurts. It hurts us to see.”
Bryant is only 24 years old. At this point of his career, he’s in his prime. The Steelers knew Bryant had character concerns coming out of Clemson when they took a calculated risk on him. Football will have to be put on the back burner for now. The issue at hand is getting a young man on track and hopefully saving his life. If the Steelers are smart, they won’t give up on Martavis.
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