This day has been a long time coming for him. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant has not been on a football field in something like 19 months, but he will take the field and play this evening for the first time since the team’s loss in the Divisional Round of the 2015 playoffs against the Broncos.
Without Antonio Brown, who suffered a concussion in the previous game, and Le’Veon Bell, who took a hit to the knee in the regular season finale, the burden of much of the offense was put on Bryant’s shoulders, and he carried them quite a way, putting up nearly 200 yards of offense on his own.
With nine receptions going for 154 receiving yards, including a 52-yarder, and another 40 yards on a run—his second run of 40 or more yards in as many weeks—Bryant was the focal point against at the time the best secondary in the league in Denver, who went on to win the Super Bowl.
And that is who the Steelers could be adding back into the fold this season, after he was forced to sit out the entirety of the 2016 season due to a drug suspension. He will be facing similar circumstances in this game as well, though, to his benefit, the pressure is completely off. This is just about getting his feet wet.
When Pittsburgh’s offense takes the field, they will be doing so once again without Brown and without Bell, and Ben Roethlisberger won’t be there either. But I’m sure the Falcons will not be fielding their full defense, either. This is the second preseason game, not the second round of the playoffs, after all.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a huge moment for the man himself. After having football taken away from him, he knows now how much it means to him, both personally and professionally. I’m sure every one of you reading this has been following his path back in eager anticipation, how he has gotten bigger, stronger, worked on his game.
The fact of the matter is that the Steelers could be getting back a player who should be even better than the guy who put up almost 200 yards of offense against the Broncos 19 months ago. Frankly, who knows what kind of potential he might have.
This game is for the jitters. This is the baby steps back to being the player the Steelers need him to be. It’s a big moment for both sides, and has been a long time coming. He has a lot of history going against him with regards to the success of suspended players returning to redeem their careers, but he seems to be in a good place to pull it off.