The Pittsburgh Steelers have been once again put into a difficult situation due to the poor decision-making of wide receiver Martavis Bryant. That much is true. But whereas the team can simply substitute for him on the football field, Bryant does not have that option for himself. The only person who can climb out of this hole for him is himself, no matter how many people throw down a rope.
He has the support network, or so one would think. After his four-game suspension was announced last season, his mother moved in across the street from him and spent a good deal of time for him, even cooking for him, helping to provide a sense of structure and stability that he evidently lacked.
It is worth keeping him mind that Bryant is still a 24-year-old young adult, in an era when most individuals so aged who are fortunate to have family support continue to live with their parents, largely due to financial reasons.
In terms of professional sports, this is also an era during which many players are instantly wealthy the moment they sign their rookie contract, which is now a fairly streamlined process. On June 9, 2014, he was given a signing bonus worth roughly $440,000. That’s a lot of money, and a lot of free time on your hands.
From all reports and all appearances, Bryant seems to be a mild-mannered, humble, well-respected member of the team who is willing to respond to hard coaching and tough love. His coaches have talked to him. His teammates have talked to him. It is the reason—aside from his impressive production—that they remain in his corner for now, through a second suspension, and through perhaps once earnest words about change that now sound hollow.
A short while ago, many Steelers fans may have had little more than a “that’s so Browns” reaction to the personal plight that talented Cleveland wide receiver Josh Gordon has been experiencing. The former All-Pro himself was suspended for all of the 2015 season. But now Pittsburgh is facing the case human crisis within their own walls, and I think it’s time to close ranks rather than ostracize.
Let’s also bear in mind that Bryant has no choice but to right the ship. He is a father of two, and thus has every motivation in the world to right his mind. I am not overly concerned over whether or not he wishes to engage in some recreational drug use for a substance that before long will in all likelihood be legal on a federal level, but if there are indeed issues that go beyond that, which by reports there are, then he needs help.
It is a cliché to say this at such times, but it is also equally obvious, and important. Football doesn’t matter for Bryant right now. Which shouldn’t be too difficult if he is going to have a year off before he can see reinstatement. His daughters matter. His mother matters. His mental health matters. Winning games does not.