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Martavis Bryant Reinstated by NFL

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert announced Wednesday that troubled wide receiver Martavis Bryant was reinstated by the NFL.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant has officially been reinstated by NFL. This comes after missing the entire 2016 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Bryant has been a play-maker in the Steelers offense since being drafted out of Clemson in 2014.

Martavis Bryant Reinstated by NFL

In his rookie season, Bryant burst onto the scene by leading all eligible receivers with 21.1 yards per reception. He was named Steelers rookie of the year after the 2014 campaign. 2015 started with Bryant being suspended four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. But Bryant was still able to be a major contributor to the offense. He finished 2015 with 50 receptions for 765 yards and six touchdowns. His combination of size and speed make him a true deep threat that any defense has to respect. He’s the first player in 77 years to have two receptions of over 88 yards in his first two seasons in the NFL. Gus Tinsley of the Chicago Cardinals was the last person to do so in 1937 and 1938.

The Pittsburgh Steelers did not list Bryant in their initial offensive depth chart of the 2017 season. Since he last suited up, the Steelers have stocked up on receivers, drafting Sammie Coates and JuJu Smith-Schuster in consecutive years and signing free-agent Justin Hunter in the off-season. But this seems like an ideal time for Bryant to make his comeback. Second-year receivers Coates and Demarcus Ayers are both sidelined with injuries.

Also, journeyman receiver Cobi Hamilton who turned into a late season contributor last year is listed fourth string. Essentially, he would be cut if the Steelers had to trim their roster to 53 men at the moment. Right now, special teams ace Darrius Heyward-Bey is listed as WR2 across from Pro Bowler Antonio Brown on the Steelers depth chart. That will change by the start of the season, Heyward-Bey is entering his ninth season, did not start one game at wide receiver last season, and was only targeted 19 times all year.

Bryant’s contract is up after the season so, granted he makes the team, and can stay on the field (he has missed 30 of the 54 Steelers games that have been played since 2014) he will be playing to determine his worth when contract negotiations begin. Whether that’s with the Steelers or Bryant tests free agency will most likely be determined by his off-the-field actions throughout the year. Entering 2017, Bryant is playing on the last year of his rookie contract. He will make $615,000 in base salary and an additional $109,805 signing bonus. Only time will tell if Bryant has changed his ways. But if any off the field issues did resurface with Bryant the Steelers could cut him and only take a $109,805 dead money hit to the salary cap.

My Take

The Steelers have made it clear that Bryant will not just be handed back his starting position. Last year’s emergence of Eli Rogers, the strong showing that Hunter has had throughout training camp and the progress of Smith-Schuster are just a few of the hurdles Bryant must overcome to get his starting position back. Hunter is an especially intriguing prospect. While he hasn’t had the on-field production of Bryant, they are similar receivers. Both Hunter and Bryant are around 6’4” tall and both can run a 4.3 40-yard dash.

It will be interesting if the Steelers decide to keep six wide receivers on the roster instead of the normal five. Uncertainty and injuries surround one of the deepest wide receiver corps in the league. Luckily, the Steelers have all preseason to see how Bryant stacks up to the rest of the wide receiver corps as well as gauging his growth off the field. Will Bryant show the Steelers that he’s worth another contract? Nobody has the answer, yet. But there’s no doubt that this season will define Bryant’s career.

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