On Monday, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network passed along word that Bryant dropped his appeal and will serve his yearlong ban. Rapoport noted, "Bryant is suspended for a minimum of one year," adding, "It begins immediately."
Dejan Kovacevic of DKPittsburghSports.com first reported Saturday that Bryant was looking at a possible yearlong ban, and Rapoport confirmed Kovacevic's report. One of Bryant's agents, Brian Fettner, also said that Bryant will enter rehab, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today.
“We’re all stunned, me included,” Fettner said, via Pelissero. “We clearly miscalculated the issue. His isn’t a party issue. It’s a coping issue and a depression issue, and he’s got to take care of it."
Bryant has had off-field issues in the past. He was suspended for the first four games of last season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler noted that Bryant's four-game suspension in 2015 was for marijuana.
While he was suspended, Bryant spent three weeks in counseling, according to Rapoport (h/t Conor Orr of NFL.com):
[Bryant] returned to the Steelers ... after spending three weeks at a counseling facility in Houston run by noted counselor John Lucas. ...
Bryant spent 9 to 5 for the last three weeks there, living in a hotel the rest of the time. He had two counseling sessions a day. The point was to build structure and keep training.
Under terms of the NFL's Joint Drug Agreement that was amended in 2014, a 10-game ban is handed down for a fifth failed test, and a one-year suspension constitutes six failed tests, as noted by ESPN.com.
Losing Bryant for an entire season is a crushing blow to Pittsburgh's offense. Even though the Steelers have elite playmakers Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Le'Veon Bell to pick up the slack, Bryant has added another dimension to the passing game.
The 24-year-old has 14 touchdown catches in just 21 career games and averages 17.3 yards per reception. He is a versatile, dynamic weapon who opens things up for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers have gotten accustomed to playing without Bryant, but knowing he won't be able to suit up next season could affect how the team approaches the rest of the offseason.
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