As reported by ESPN, Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Martavis Bryant is facing a one-year ban from the NFL for a failed drug test. According to one of Bryant’s agents, Brian Fettner, Bryant is suffering from depression and plans to enter into a rehab facility.
In 2015, Bryant was suspended four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Fettner stated to USA Today Sports that he is concerned about his client’s well-being and wants Bryant to get better:
“We’re all stunned, me included. 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. This is the biggest cry for help I’ve ever seen. And that hurts. It hurts us to see. He’s 24 years old and he’s got to get right, whatever it is. If you talk to anybody’s family that has depression, they will be talking about these same things — the [despondence], the withdrawal, the head-in-the-sand despair, just trying to cope.”
With the league having yet to announce anything on the matter, Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten was brief in his statement to the media regarding Bryant’s potential suspension:
“Until there’s something official from the NFL, we won’t be commenting.”
Following the return from his four-game suspension in 2015, Bryant excelled in the Steeler offense, recording 50 receptions for 765 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games played. The Steelers have other weapons to utilize at wideout with Markus Wheaton, Darius Heyward-Bey, newly signed tight end LaDarius Green, and of course, All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown. However, the potential of loss of one of the team’s top wideouts for the entire season should certainly be a concern for Steeler fans.
Martavis Bryant has been one of Pittsburgh’s most productive wideouts since being drafted in the fourth round in 2014 out of Clemson. The Steelers knew that Bryant had some character issues coming out of college, but decided to take a risk on him. That risk has proved to be beneficial at times with Bryant’s success on the field, but it has also proven to be fatal as Bryant has been unable to keep himself out of trouble off of the field, therefore, resulting in his privilege of wearing a black and gold uniform to be taken away multiple times. Bryant is due to make $600,000 in 2016 as he is in the third year of his rookie contract (expires after 2017 season). Pittsburgh could opt to release Bryant if they felt the need, but it would not save them that much money against their salary cap. The best option right now for the Pittsburgh Steelers is to hope that Bryant can get the help he needs so that he can return to football a changed man, whether it be in 2016 or 2017. Martavis Bryant has proved that he is worth hanging onto with his receiving ability, and until he does something worse than failing a drug test there is no reason for the Steelers to not, at least, hold onto him for the time being and respect the fact that he needs psychiatric assistance. If Bryant fails another drug test after going to rehab, then the Steelers will have all the right in the world to cut ties with him.
Information from Pro-Football-Reference was used in this report.