Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant appeals possible one-year NFL suspension
March 12, 2016 3:13 PM
The Steelers' Martavis Bryant is facing a season-long suspension from the NFL.
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant faces a one-year suspension for again violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, his agent confirmed Saturday to the Post-Gazette.
Bryant, suspended by the league for the first four games of 2015 after violating the policy, has appealed the latest suspension, said Thomas Santanello, his agent.
Bryant learned about the possible one-year suspension this week. DKPittsburghSports first broke the news Saturday.
“They want to suspend him for a year and right now it’s under appeal,” Santanello told the PG. “I don’t have all the information yet. I can confirm it’s true where it stands right now.”
Bryant, a 2014 fourth-round draft pick from Clemson, caught 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns last season after missing the first four games because of his suspension and a fifth because the Steelers deemed him not yet ready to play to open the season.
In two years, he has 76 catches for 1,314 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also caught 14 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown in their two playoff games last season.
Burt Lauten, the Steelers communication coordinator, said the team would have no comment on the matter until or unless the NFL announces anything.
According to 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.”
It may be no coincidence that Tuesday the Steelers re-signed veteran wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey a day before free agency began, and on Thursday they signed San Diego Chargers unrestricted free agent Ladarius Green, a 6-foot-6 tight end known more for his speed and receiving ability than his blocking.
Upon his return to the Steelers last season after his suspension, Bryant apologized to his teammates and vowed it would not happen again. During his suspension, he spent three weeks in Houston with noted substance-abuse counselor John Lucas, a former NBA player.
“I learned a lot about myself, especially from the mistake I made,” Bryant said after his suspension was lifted and he returned to the Steelers in October. “Now I just want to move forward and put everything in the past and work on becoming a better man and a better football player.’’
During his suspension, he said he received daily contact and moral support from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But Roethlisberger also called out his young receiver to “tough it up” after Bryant missed two games of practice before the season finale and then ran a wrong route in Cleveland that led to an interception. He caught one pass for no yards in that game.
“I just felt like we need him,” Roethlisberger said. “I love that guy like a little brother. I just wanted him to know we need him to step up. It was nothing more than a challenge. That’s all.”
Bryant responded by catching five passes in the playoff victory against Cincinnati, including a spectacular, tumbling 10-yard touchdown catch, along with a 44-yard run, then caught nine passes for 154 yards and two runs for another 40 in the divisional round loss at Denver.
That playoff game against the Broncos could be the last time he pulls on a uniform for a while.
Despite missing those first five games, Bryant’s 50 receptions were second among Steelers wide receivers last year behind Antonio Brown’s team-record 136 catches. Tight end Heath Miller, who has since retired, was second on the team with 60 catches.
Brown and Markus Wheaton (44 catches, 749 yards in 2015) return as the two starting wide receivers for the Steelers this year. Heyward-Bey (21-314) and Sammie Coates, who caught just one pass for 11 yards as a rookie, also return at the position.
The previous time a Steelers player missed a full season because of suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy was halfback Tim Worley in 1992. Worley was a first-round draft choice in 1989. He played only five more games for the Steelers in 1993 before they traded him to Chicago for a fifth-round draft choice. His career ended after he gained just 17 yards in five games in 1994.
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