By Nick Shook
Read full post on NFL.com
Martavis Bryant is back in the NFL.
The Steelers wide receiver has been conditionally reinstated by the league, the team announced Tuesday. Bryant had been suspended for the 2016 season for multiple violations of the league’s policy against substances of abuse.
“We look forward to working with Martavis to ensure that he is mentally and physically prepared to contribute to our efforts on the field, while also maintaining the proper balance to keep his life in order off the field.”
Bryant will be allowed to join the Steelers at the team’s facility for meetings, conditioning work and similar activities and will have his progress evaluated by the league before the start of the season. The receiver will be permitted to participate in all preseason activities after arrangements for his clinical resources in Pittsburgh have been confirmed, according to the team’s release. Bryant must also work with a clinician to plan his bye week and offseason activities, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
In a letter obtained by Rapoport, the NFL told Bryant the “Commissioner [Roger Goodell] wants nothing more than to see you turn your circumstances around and enjoy a successful career.”
Bryant’s most-recent infraction came as a result of multiple missed drug tests, prompting harsh words from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who wasn’t shy about putting his receiver on blast if he deemed it necessary prior to the suspension. The criticism grew from Bryant needing to “toughen up” after he disappeared in a win on a frigid Sunday in Cleveland, to needing to “grow up” in the wake of his suspension. Roethlisberger took exception to the added fact that Bryant didn’t respond to the quarterback’s initial attempts to reach out to the maligned pass-catcher.
If and how well the two mend their fences in the coming months will be something to watch, but how the receiver fits in the offense is likely much more important. Without Bryant, the Steelers were forced to turn to a myriad of receivers opposite Antonio Brown — Cobi Hamilton, Eli Rogers, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates and Darrius Heyward-Bey were among those who tallied receptions in 2016 — and the revolving door at the position made many wonder how Pittsburgh’s offense would perform had Bryant not gotten himself suspended. Now, with the superior talent of Bryant conditionally back in the fold, Pittsburgh’s offense becomes even more fearsome.
Though he’s yet to tally a 1,000-yard season, Bryant showed more than a few flashes of being a fantastic No. 2 receiver, catching 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns (good for second-most yards and touchdown catches on the team) in just 11 games in 2015. With Brown, Bryant and Wheaton all available, Pittsburgh had the league’s third-best passing offense in 2015 at 287.7 passing yards per game. Without Bryant (and Wheaton, who had just four catches in 2016 and is now a Chicago Bear), that number dropped to 262.6.
Bryant has 76 catches, 1,314 yards and 14 touchdown receptions in 21 career games, and at 25, seemingly has plenty of time to start racking up the numbers. With Roethlisberger fresh off a frustrating finish to Pittsburgh’s postseason run (a blowout loss to New England in the AFC title game), he can be encouraged by the prospects of seeing both Brown and Bryant lining up wide in an offense that is sure to produce more fireworks.