Martavis Bryant Suspension Upheld: Latest Comments and Reaction

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2015

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant prepares for a play against the Buffalo Bills during the first half of a preseason NFL football game on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)
Bill Wippert/Associated Press

The NFL upheld the suspension of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant on Aug. 31, which will keep him out of the lineup until at least Week 5.      

Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted the league's decision, adding Bryant will serve the ban without pay.

Fittipaldo also passed along a statement from Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert after the announcement:

We are disappointed in Martavis’ actions that has led to his four-game suspension. It is a disappointment to our entire organization as well as our fans, but we will continue to support Martavis during his suspension. It is very unfortunate his actions have put our team in this situation to begin the year, but we are confident he will learn from his mistake and return in excellent shape in Week 5.

"I embarrassed myself," Bryant said on Tuesday, via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I embarrassed my family. I embarrassed the team. I own up to my mistake and I just want to learn from this."

Head coach Mike Tomlin expressed disappointment in Bryant but said the team would continue to support him, per Dale Lolley of Pennsylvania's Observer-Reporter. "We don't have a definitive plan for him moving forward but we will," Tomlin said, per Lolley. 

Tomlin went on to confirm the team drafted Sammie Coates because it knew Bryant was facing a suspension, per Lolley

"He has issues he's dealing with that are bigger than football," Tomlin said, per Fittipaldo.

Bryant, 23, was suspended last week for violations of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the suspension was for "multiple" failed tests for marijuana. Under the NFL's drug-testing policy, a second failed test for marijuana typically results in a four-game suspension.

Bryant had 26 receptions for 549 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie. He was expected to take on an even bigger role in 2015, becoming more of a well-rounded target rather than merely a big-play threat. 

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger commented on Bryant, per Mike Prisuta of the Steelers' website:

He’s put the work in. He looks good. He’s picking everything up. Last year we just kind of put him in there and gave him a couple of things to do, which he did really well. Now, we’re asking him to do more. We’re asking him to move around a little bit, front side, back side, and to know things better. I’m going to count on him in the no-huddle (offense).

Bryant will be joined on the sidelines for the first two games of 2015 by running back Le'Veon Bell, who was suspended for a marijuana-related DUI that dates back to last season.

“He is going to have to overcome it the same way I have to,” Bell said, per Mark Kaboly of TribLive.com. “Do your time and get back on the field.”

This leaves the Steelers, who on paper have one of the NFL's most talented offenses, searching for answers. Roethlisberger will be relying on top wideout Antonio Brown more than ever, with Markus Wheaton also having to pick up the slack. Rookie Coates may also be thrust into early action as a downfield threat. While talented, neither Brown nor Wheaton excels at making huge gains.

Rotoworld's staff weighed in following the announcement with advice for fantasy football players: "Bryant's initial role will depend on how Markus Wheaton fares in his absence, but he's worth stashing on your bench as a potential/likely stretch-run WR3."

More concerning is what this suspension means for Bryant's status with the Steelers. He's not even two seasons into his NFL career and is already deep in the league's substance-abuse program. He will be subject to near-constant testing for as long as he's in the program, which means there is no room to slip up. With one more mistake, Bryant is in danger of joining the likes of Josh Gordon, Justin Blackmon and other talents who allowed their problems to overshadow their careers.

Either way, the Steelers are fighting an uphill battle as they look to make back-to-back playoff appearances.