Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant is facing a one-year suspension from the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy for the second time.
Bryant’s agent, Thomas Santanello, confirmed the potential discipline in email to The Associated Press on Saturday night and said Bryant has filed an appeal. The suspension was first reported by DKPittsburghsports.com.
The 24-year-old Bryant was suspended for the first four games last season and spent a portion of that time in Houston with John Lucas, the former NBA player and coach who operates a substance abuse facility. He came back saying he was humbled by the experience.
Bryant caught 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns and was dynamic in the playoffs. He made an acrobatic scoring grab in a wild-card win over Cincinnati and hauled in nine passes for 154 yards in a loss to Denver in the divisional round, serving as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s top target with All-Pro Antonio Brown out with a concussion.
The Steelers had no comment on Bryant’s situation. The NFL typically does not announce any punishment for substance abuse violations until the appeals process is complete.
Pittsburgh took the raw 6-foot-4 Bryant in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. His arrival on the active roster in Week 7 of his rookie season ignited an 8-2 surge that lifted the Steelers to the AFC North title. Any forward momentum took a hit, however, when he ran afoul of the league’s substance abuse guidelines. He stressed he learned from the suspension and "moved past it" yet Steelers chairman Art Rooney II remained pragmatic when talking about the talented but enigmatic receiver shortly after the 2015 season ended.
"Martavis is a player that has tremendous ability and potential," Rooney said in January. "We just have to continue to work with him to make sure he takes care of his business off the field to put himself in a position to be as great a player as he can be. He’s one of those guys where the sky is the limit. I hope the experience he had earlier this season made an impact on him. But it’s one of those things where only time will tell."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made it a point to reach out to Bryant during his time away from the team last fall, comparing Bryant to "a little brother."
The Steelers are counting on Bryant to round out an offense that already includes Roethlisberger, Brown, running back Le’Veon Bell and tight end Ladarius Green, who signed as a free agent on Thursday. Pittsburgh also re-signed receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey to a three-year deal last week and still has Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates in the fold.
Yet none outside of Brown possess the same game-breaking skill as Bryant, who is averaging 17.3 yards per reception during his brief career. That potential, however, will take a backseat as Bryant tries to have the suspension reduced or risk losing his third season in the league before it even begins.