On Monday, the NFL upheld Martavis Bryant's four-game suspension, forcing him to miss the first quarter of the 2015 regular season. When news of the suspension first saw the light of day last week, many fans wondered how no one had heard of any prior failed drug tests up to this point. According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers organization knew about it and planned accordingly.
"The Steelers were aware of Bryant's failed drug tests and possibility of a four-game suspension at least as far back as the spring. That's why they drafted wide receiver Sammie Coates in the third round in April, according to a team source — to have insurance in case Bryant had another violation." Dulac writes.
The Steelers having a knowledge of Bryant's failed drug tests and a possible suspension looming is understandable. After all, the NFL would certainly notify Bryant's employer of any failed test which could have implications on the team heading into the 2015 NFL Draft.
However, selecting Coates in the third round of this year's draft could also show that the team isn't 100-percent confident Bryant is done with the substance which found him in this predicament in the first place. This isn't a Le'Veon Bell situation where the running back was busted for a DUI and possession of an illegal substance. This is a player who has failed multiple drug tests, to the point where he has found himself suspended for a quarter of the regular season.
The Steelers have every right to be uneasy regarding this situation, especially after watching what happened in Cleveland with the Browns and troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon. The team will surely do whatever it takes to ensure Bryant doesn't go down that path, but the selection of Coates gives them some, albeit not much currently, insurance if Bryant slips up again and sees a much stiffer penalty.
That insurance policy, Sammie Coates, is far from a finished product, much like Bryant was as a rookie in 2014. Coates has shown flashes of potential throughout the preseason, but still had several head-scratching drops which plagued his career at Auburn before entering the NFL.
Nonetheless, the best case scenario for the Steelers would be that this is the last time you hear of any issues with Bryant, and the addition of Coates will only bolster an already talent-laden wide receiving corps. The worst case scenario is that Bryant becomes Josh Gordon 2.0 and eventually uses his way out of the NFL.
Either way, it is hard to believe that the Steelers were ever in the dark on these failed tests and rulings, and as the report states, they took measures to ensure the business could stay afloat if things turned South in a hurry.