Steelers reaction to Martavis Bryant suspension one of disappointment, not sympathy
March 14, 2016 2:13 PM
The Steelers' Martavis Bryant breaks away from the Broncos' TJ Ward for a first down in the Jan. 17 game against the Broncos.
The Steelers' Martavis Bryant hauls in a touchdown pass in January's wild card game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Martavis Bryant will begin serving a one-year suspension effective immediately for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers’ reaction to the 2016 season suspension of wide receiver Martavis Bryant the NFL announced Monday was not one of sympathy but of disappointment.
Bryant, suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, will start his year-long suspension immediately.
“We are very disappointed that Martavis Bryant has put himself in this current situation of being suspended by the League,’’ Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement. “He is at a crossroads of his professional life, and he needs to understand significant changes need to occur in his personal life if he wants to regain his career as a Pittsburgh Steeler. We are hopeful that Martavis will take the necessary steps to develop the discipline in his personal life to become a successful player and a good teammate.”
The league issued a statement earlier in the day confirming the one-year suspension:
“Martavis Bryant of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been suspended without pay for a minimum of one year for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. Bryant’s suspension begins immediately.”
Thomas Santanello, one of his agents, told the Post-Gazette Saturday that Bryant’s suspension was under appeal. He either has dropped or lost that appeal. Neither Santanello nor colleague Brian Fettner could be reached for comment.
Bryant’s salary of $600,000 for 2016 will not be paid and will not count against the Steelers cap. Neither will his pro-rated signing bonus of $109,805. The four-year contract still has two years to go, so instead of ending after the 2017 season it will now go through 2018.
He becomes the first Steelers player suspended for a season for violating the policy since halfback Tim Worley, their first-round draft pick in 1989, was suspended for the 1992 season.
Bryant also becomes the second Steelers player suspended in the past six months for violating the NFL substance of abuse policy — third if you include his own four-game suspension to open the 2015 season for violating the same policy.
All-Pro halfback Le’Veon Bell missed the first two games of 2015 when the NFL suspended him after he and then-Steelers halfback LeGarrette Blount were charged by authorities after being caught using marijuana in a car in the 2014 preseason. Bell also was charged with DUI. The Steelers cut Blount later that season and he served a one-game suspension while with the New England Patriots.
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes was charged by Pittsburgh Police with a misdemeanor for having a small amount of marijuana in his vehicle in the 2008 season. Coach Mike Tomlin decided not to allow Holmes to play three days later against the New York Giants. Holmes, however, was never suspended nor did he lose pay for that forced one-game absence by Tomlin. He went on to become MVP of Super Bowl XLIII with the Steelers. They traded him to the New York Jets after the 2009 season for a fifth-round draft pick.
Bryant, a 2014 fourth-round draft pick from Clemson, caught 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns last season after missing the first five games, four to the suspension and the fifth because the Steelers deemed him not yet ready to play.
In two seasons he has 76 receptions for 1,314 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also caught 14 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown in their two playoff games in January.
It appears Bryant had to fail two drug tests — or miss them, which the policy treats as a positive test — in order for him to be suspended a year. The NFL policy stipulates that if a player has been suspended for four games, his next positive step would be a 10-game suspension and a year’s suspension would follow if he failed another test.
Despite missing those first five games, Bryant’s 50 receptions were second among Steelers wide receivers in 2015 behind Antonio Brown’s team-record 136 catches. Tight end Heath Miller, who has since retired, was second 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. Darrius Heyward-Bey (21-314) and Sammie Coates, who caught just one pass for 11 yards as a rookie, also return at the position.
NOTES — The Steelers have the least amount of salary cap room in the league, according to current NFL Players Association accounting at $3,692,020. ... Mike Munchak, who attended an annual golf tournament in Houston to benefit Special Olympics, told the Houston Chronicle that the NFL rescinded his $10,000 fine for pulling the hair of Cincinnati Bengals safety Reggie Nelson along the sideline in their playoff game Jan. 9 ... Alejandro Villanueva, who became the Steelers’ starting left tackle after Kelvin Beachum was lost for the season with an ACL tear in the sixth game, earned $309,834 extra in performance-based pay, the seventh-highest paid out by the league for 2015.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.