The 2017 Steelers season has been a never ending series of drama and distractions and they’re dealing with one of the biggest ones now. Martavis Bryant has been angry about his role in the offense. In the past few weeks he has:
1) Had his agent ask for a trade
2) Gone on social media to trash a teammate and demand a trade.
Not familiar with his story? Let’s review. Bryant was drafted in the 4th round in 2014 out of Clemson. He is called “alien” because of his freakish size and speed. He’s been compared to Randy Moss. His rookie season was sensational, playing in 10 games and gaining 549 yards receiving with 8 touchdowns.
2015 is when the trouble started. He was suspended the first 4 games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He still had a good season, gaining 765 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns. Before the Wild Card playoff game against Cincinnati, Ben Roethlisberger called him out, saying they needed more from him. He responded in a big way, making a spectacular catch in the corner of the end zone while doing a front flip.
In March of 2016, it was reported that he was missing the entire season due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy, once again. He wasn’t allowed to be near the team in any way. This hurt the Steelers greatly as they didn’t have a strong number two receiver to take attention away from Antonio Brown.
This year, he wasn’t allowed to participate in most of training camp because he wasn’t fully reinstated. When the Steelers drafted wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round, Bryant tweeted “lol that’s Sammie Coates replacement not mines take it how you want to I am back.”
So far this year he has only had one good game, in week 2 against Minnesota, he had 3 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. Other than that, he’s been mostly invisible. Ben Roethlisberger has tried to throw to him deep, but they haven’t connected. Sometimes it was Ben’s fault, but sometimes it was Bryant losing the ball or not fully running a route.
So what do the Steelers do with Bryant? Here are their options:
1) Trade him. This is what Bryant wants but it isn’t happening. Coach Tomlin said “We’ve invested a lot in Martavis since we drafted him,” He’s not available via a trade.” The Steelers would get nowhere near equal value for him in a trade.
2) Release him. The Steelers did this with LeGarrette Blount in 2014. He was angry about his playing time and left a game early. The Steelers released him and he signed with the New England Patriots where he was a valuable contributor. The Steelers may consider this if they’re thinking about releasing Bryant. It doesn’t sound like they’ll do this as coaches and players say he works hard and doesn’t have an attitude while he is with the team.
3) Deactivate him. Let’s call this the Keyshawn Johnson route. In 2003, Johnson got into a screaming match with head coach Jon Gruden and was deactivated for the final 7 games. Will the Steelers take this route? They already have said Bryant will not play Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions. Was this a one game punshiment or will it last longer?
4) Play him. On Wednesday, Bryant said “I’m not going to hide how I feel. What happened has happened … If I’m not traded I’m going to work my butt off here, and whatever happens happens. You’re not going to hear me complaining no more.” So, if he’s not going to complain any more, will he be okay with his role? How will the Steelers offense look this Sunday without him?
The offense has underachieved all year for many reasons. The still need an effective number 2 receiver opposite Antonio Brown. Will it be Bryant? JuJu? Eli Rogers? Stay tuned. If recent history has been any indication, the drama is far from over.