There were some troubling times for Martavis Bryant during his suspension, some of which made it out for public scrutiny on social media, as the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver has a tendency to get defensive and respond to criticism using his public platforms.
One such comment that drew attention occurred during the 2017 NFL Draft when the Steelers drafted wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round. He wrote that the youngster is going to be the replacement for Sammie Coates, and not himself. He had only just recently been reinstated, and was still several weeks from rejoining the team.
Coates laughed off the comment, though Mike Tomlin felt the need to intervene on social media, and Bryant ultimately deleted the original message. It’s still not clear entirely where the remark came from, but, as mentioned, he has a history of being defensive.
Not that it means anything about his real-world relationship with his teammates. Few would be likely to know this better than Darrius Heyward-Bey, the only 30-year-old in the Steelers’ wide receivers room, who recently told Jeremy Fowler that that incident—which I commented on at the time, in full disclosure—was overblown.
“They joke around”, the veteran wide receiver said of the relationship of the two younger wide receivers who are threatening to displace him entirely from the roster this season. “They actually are the closest dudes on the team”, he added, though I do find that a bit hard to believe. Coates was a rookie who wasn’t playing during Bryant’s last season, so I’m inclined to question just how close they got.
“It’s the brotherly thing”, he added. “I’m going to take a jab at you; you take a jab at me”. This no doubt goes on in the locker room far more than would be indicated by the amount that such activities leak into the realm of social media, so that is no surprise.
Heyward-Bey did later seem to acknowledge that there was at least a genuine place from which the original comment came. “Everybody wants to play” he said; “everybody has an ego”. Not that it wasn’t easy enough to assume, but making such a remark does imply that it was just a bit more than friendly banter. There is, after all, a job, or at least a role, on the line, and that could equate to security, and income.
But the veteran also sees in them two team players. “They also understand if I don’t help you and if I’m not ready, then we won’t be good at all. The good thing I like about our group is nobody is being selfish”, he said. “Everybody is coachable”.
It was visually evident that Bryant did return to the team as a bit of a different person. Based on his media availability, he carries himself differently and speaks differently. And I think that the ability to finally get back on the field and in the locker room also did a world of good for his psyche. He was on his own when the draft pick came in; now he is among brothers.