It’s interesting to wonder about how the Pittsburgh Steelers offense might have looked today—or over the past few years—had they had Martavis Bryant, the player, at the peak of his game, throughout that time. An extremely gifted athlete, he exploded onto the scene in 2014 as a rookie fourth-round pick, following it up with a strong second year, before he was hit with a year-long suspension in 2016.
He returned to the Steelers in 2017, but was unable to perform at the same level, and was ultimately surpassed by JuJu Smith-Schuster, which would help prompt the team to trade him to the Oakland Raiders for a third-round pick on draft day of 2018.
While with the Raiders, and during a very lackluster season, he was hit with another indefinite suspension, with the opportunity to apply for reinstatement this offseason. It was reported in May, as we previously relayed, that he had the intention of doing so in the near future, and now he finally has.
According to Dan Graziano, he has spent the time since then working alongside both the NFL and the Players Association to give himself the best standing on being able to come back into the fold, addressing “steps he needs to take to address his mental health issues”.
Suspended former Steelers and Raiders WR Martavis Bryant has formally applied to the NFL for reinstatement. Bryant has been working with the NFL and NFLPA on steps he needs to take to address his mental health issues with resources such as therapists and ADHD treatments.
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) July 15, 2019
When it was previously reported that he had the intention of applying for reinstatement, it was also reported alongside that (also by Graziano) that he was arguing that the league’s drug program (which he has been in since his second season) “is not set up to offer players access to proper treatment for mental health issues”.
It’s worth noting that since that comment, the NFL had indeed revealed a plan to supply teams with access to mental health experts as a requirement, starting in 2019. This behavioral health clinician would be required to be available at the team facility for at least eight to 12 hours per week.
Going back to Bryant’s very first suspension, it had been talked about that there had been a mental health component to his drug use that had gotten him into trouble, with depression and other issues being talked about. It’s a difficult topic to discuss openly in a masculine climate, one taboo that some prominent athletes have been trying to blow up.
In 10 games during his rookie season, Bryant caught 26 passes for 549 yards, averaging 21.1 yards per reception, with eight touchdowns. He would catch 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns (with another on an end-around) a year later.
He was also a big-time performer in the postseason. In four games, he caught 21 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 84 yards and four carries, giving him an average of over 100 yards from scrimmage per game in the postseason in Pittsburgh.