What could be a breakout second season for Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant will be cut short by 25 percent.
According to Fox Sports' Ross Jones, Bryant has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 campaign for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. ESPN's Adam Schefter confirmed Bryant's ban, adding that it's under appeal.
According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the suspension is for marijuana, and Bryant is hoping to hear back about an appeal within seven to 10 days.
Dale Lolley @dlolleyor
Tomlin is disappointed with Bryant. Will also continue to support. "We don't have a definitive plan for him moving forward but we will2015-9-1 16:35:42
Dale Lolley @dlolleyor
Tomlin confirms #Steelers drafted Sammie Coates because they knew Bryant was going to be suspended2015-9-1 16:36:06
Ray Fittipaldo @rayfitt1
Tomlin on Bryant: "He has issues he's dealing with that are bigger than football."2015-9-1 16:42:45
NFL.com's Chris Trapasso weighed in on Bryant's immediate future and how it might affect the start of the Steelers' year:
Chris Trapasso @ChrisTrapasso
Martavis suspended for 1st four games, per Schefty. Could get appealed down to two. #Steelers O should be *ok* facing Pats/49ers secondaries2015-8-27 18:43:56
Bryant flashed big-play ability as a fourth-round rookie in 2014, hauling in 26 receptions for 549 yards (21.1 average) and eight touchdowns. In comparison, last season's TD catch leader, Dez Bryant, had 16 scores but needed 88 catches to get there.
|2014 TD Reception Percentage: Bryant vs. NFL Leaders|
|Player||Rec.||Yards||TD||Touchdown %||20+ yard play %|
Finding pay dirt on 30.8 percent of receptions despite being so raw is an indicator of just how talented the Steelers receiver is. A blend of surprising speed, ball skills, elite size at 6'4" and a frame that's 20 pounds heavier (at around 225) than when he was drafted, per Fowler, suggests Bryant can become one of the NFL's top playmakers in due time.
That's what makes this setback so disappointing for Bryant, his teammates, the organization and the fans.
Back in late July, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hinted Bryant could be far more dangerous thanks to a refined route tree.
"We threw him a lot of deep passes, that was kind of his go-to catch," Roethlisberger said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac. "Now we can throw it to all areas."
A similarly gifted athlete is bound to get more opportunities with Bryant sidelined for the time being. Rookie third-rounder Sammie Coates hails from a run-heavy Auburn offense but has the same type of explosiveness as Bryant. Look for Coates to fill in as a potential X-factor in a high-octane Pittsburgh passing game.
Having a quarterback like Roethlisberger will help the Steelers overcome Bryant's absence. Reigning NFL receiving champion Antonio Brown is still in the lineup, along with Markus Wheaton, who took a big step with 53 receptions last season after recording just six as a rookie.