It has been an interesting extended weekend for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant. In the middle of the week, he learned that he was being conditionally reinstated after serving a suspension for over a year. Then on the second day of the draft, Pittsburgh added a wide receiver at his position. It didn’t seem as though he took too kindly to it.
You probably saw or heard about it. We already talked about it ourselves. Head Coach Mike Tomlin even tried to downplay it, though I’m not entirely convinced that it’s something to be downplayed. Bryant took a shot at a teammate, and I’m not so sure it was just all in good fun.
Here’s my concern with that: he isn’t showing that he gets it. While it’s been a fairly common pattern by now for him to ‘lash out’ at ‘haters’ on social media—whether real imagined—we’re talking now about a teammate. We’re talking about somebody that he’s supposed to view as a peer, as a brother, as a partner in a common goal.
Not an adversary.
Bryant has been away from and out of contact with his teammates for more than a year, and he’s not exactly amicably reintegrating himself into the locker room. I don’t think it was a light decision for Tomlin to step up on Twitter after the fact to speak up, telling them to play nice, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that Bryant deleted the Tweet—and a subsequent Tweet—after that.
After adding Justin Hunter and now JuJu Smith-Schuster in free agency and the draft, I think all the wide receivers who aren’t being paid $17 million a year know that they are on notice and will have to earn their roster spot. That is going to make for one hell of a competitive training camp and preseason, but Bryant needs to realize who his friends are.
I hope I’m making too much of all this, even if it is only the latest example in a pattern of behavior that suggests a mindset of neurosis, isolation, and me-against-the-worldism for lack of a better term, but I do hope that somebody can get through to Bryant to make him understand that people are pulling for him, and that you don’t have to take others down to lift yourself up.
He’s probably feeling like he has a lot to prove, and that he’s ready to just dominate the league at this point. He seems to have committed himself to his fitness in his year away from the game and is itching to play again and build off of what he did in his first two seasons.
But you can’t put yourself over the team, and he needs to know that. The team comes first, and that includes the locker room. Coates is a younger and less established player and he’s telling him that he’s going to be replaced instead of him. But they’re all trying to win, and it will take all of them to do that. His comment didn’t hint at a friendly competition but a genuine visceral reaction: ‘Uh uh, I’m not the one getting replaced. It’s not me. It’s Sammie’.
We’ll see where things go from here. I don’t think we even know if Bryant has reported to the team yet and seen his coaches and teammates.