Yesterday, in the early afternoon on the east coast, news broke of Pittsburgh Steelers suspended wide receiver Martavis Bryant planning on filing for reinstatement with the league in the near future. The reason this became news was Bryant’s agent responded to an NFL Network story stating Bryant had already submitted the appropriate paperwork for reinstatement.
Turns out the report was false — shocker, right?
Bryant could have filed for reinstatement on January 13th, and Bryant’s agent stated they are planning to file for reinstatement soon, but the fact they are waiting shouldn’t have any bearing on what fans are feeling regarding his potential return in 2017.
In fact, the hoops Bryant will have to jump through to return to the playing field are many. He has to prove he has received some form of professional help, he has stayed "clean" throughout the suspension and will have to meet with Roger Goodell face-to-face, all before reinstatement is even considered.
In a recent Sports Illustrated interview, Bryant stated he hasn’t smoke marijuana in over 8 months, and has left Los Angeles in an attempt to leave the life he once lived. A good sign, but his journey is far over.
As for fans, it is easy to look at the potential return of Bryant and get excited. Assuming Le’Veon Bell returns, Bryant, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Ladarius Green, Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey all drive by that dominant offensive line would have the look of an absolutely unstoppable force in 2017.
But fans should pump the brakes before thinking about how many touchdowns this team would put up with all those weapons at their disposal.
I’m not suggesting there is something amiss with Bryant, simply that as fans of the NFL we’ve seen this before. Josh Gordon, Aldon Smith and even Johnny Manziel are all perfect examples of players who have been suspended, and are either trying to get back into the league, or have had a setback in their recovery and are again on the outside looking in.
Bryant is a freakish athlete, and one who is capable of taking over a game when he is on the football field. His 14 touchdown receptions in 21 games played in a black and gold uniform certainly speak for themselves, but until he steps foot onto a football field, and even after that, fans should have a guarded sense of excitement regarding his future.
Sure, Bryant is saying all the right things. He moved away from L.A., stopped using drugs, is helping a local High School coach wide receivers, and actually started training — something he has never really done before.
Then again, haven’t we all heard this song and dance before? Josh Gordon said it, multiple times, and even Le’Veon Bell spoke of changing his ways, only to be suspended for the second time to start the 2016 regular season.
Trust me, you won’t find many who are looking forward to Bryant’s return more than me, but I also understand the nature of addictions and habits. It is a tough chain to break, and I hope Bryant has done just that, but until he proves it by staying on the team and playing out his contract through the 2018 season without incident, I will remain skeptical of his return.
In the meantime, the Steelers would be wise to not put all their eggs into No. 10’s basket and prepare wisely. Whether that is how they approach free agency, or the NFL Draft, banking on Bryant’s returns is playing with fire...and the team can’t afford to get burned again.