2017 Offseason Questions: How Does Bryant’s Reinstatement Alter Draft Plans?

The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: How does yesterday’s news of Martavis Bryant’s conditional reinstatement affect the Steelers’ intentions in the draft?

The Steelers got some uplifting news yesterday when the league announced that wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who was suspended indefinitely a little over a year ago, was conditionally reinstated and is able to join his teammates immediately. Barring any setbacks, he is on pace to resume his career as normal.

During their pre-draft press conference on Monday, head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert said that they had no update on his status, and reiterated their long-held sentiment that they are going to function as though he is not here until he is here…but, now he is here. So how does that affect their plans for drafting offense beginning with tomorrow’s draft?

It’s easy to say that it doesn’t. After all, he’s been out of the game for over a year, and it’s not obvious how he will be able to contribute following the down time not only away from football, but away from his coaches and from a learning environment. Yes, he worked out on his own. Yes, he even coached kids. That’s not the same.

There’s also the very real issue of his future with the team. He has two years left on his contract. There’s a really good chance he’s not going to get a second contract with the Steelers, given his issues with drugs and the risk of losing him again. Sammie Coates will be a free agent now at the same time with his contract tolling, unless they extend him after this season, which is a long way away.

In other words, it’s fair to make the argument that Bryant’s return doesn’t alter their long-term need at the position, at least as far as we can speculate into the future. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe if Corey Davis falls to them in the first round, they still take him.

Another area it could affect is the tight end position. There have been conflicting reports over the Steelers’ level of interest here, so it’s hard to say. But getting a big-bodied red zone threat who is bulkier than ever, and perhaps more dedicated, does ease the need for another tight end, so perhaps they wait and only take one if the right one falls to them in the right slot. Part of the reason Pittsburgh went and got Ladarius Green a year ago was to soften the blow of Bryant’s suspension.

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