March 12, 2016
Martavis Bryant, the Steelers’ talented but troubled wide receiver, is facing a full-season NFL suspension in 2016 for again violating the league’s substance abuse policy, two sources confirmed to DKPittsburghSports.com this morning and a third this afternoon.
Bryant and his agent, Tom Santanello, have filed an appeal. If the suspension goes through, it would be a shocking, seismic blow to a contending team that’s set a seventh Super Bowl victory as its goal for next season.
“Per team policy, we’ll have no comment until there’s an announcement from the NFL,” Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said this afternoon.
The NFL rarely announces suspensions or fines. Santanello said the process is “ongoing.”
“It could change tomorrow,” he said. “I can’t really comment on anything right now that’s going on.”
It’s unclear when the failed tests occurred. One of the sources said he believes it was during these past playoffs, but that’s not confirmed.
Bryant, 24, was suspended by the NFL for four games for multiple violations involving marijuana usage. He underwent three weeks of counseling in Houston, rejoined the Steelers in midseason, apologized to his teammates in the locker room in what by all accounts was an emotional session and returned to action.
Bryant could appeal this suspension, but the league policy calls for a full season as the length of a second suspension.
In 11 games this past season, Bryant had 50 catches for 576 yards and six touchdowns. Entering the AFC Wild Card game, Ben Roethlisberger issued a challenge to Bryant.
Much of that involved Bryant running routes better and playing through pain, but it’s no secret that Roethlisberger was giving Bryant a not-so-subtle nudge, realizing his importance to the Steelers.
“I want to challenge him to be the best in the world,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s really up to him with what he wants to do with that challenge.”
Update 4:50 p.m.: USA Today is reporting that Bryant will enter a rehab facility as soon as Sunday. I’m working to independently confirm this, with messages out to both of Bryant’s agents.
Update 3:29 pm.: Bryant’s teammates were understandably unaware of the suspension. DeAngelo Williams was the first to post his reaction on Twitter:
— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) March 12, 2016