The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Had it not been for his career being sidetracked because of drug suspensions, Martavis Bryant might still be a star with the Steelers.
Explanation: A fourth-round pick out of Clemson in 2014, Martavis Bryant spent the first six games of his career inactive, but made his presence felt after that. In 21 games over his first two years, he caught 65 passes for 1314 yards with 14 touchdowns, and he had standout performances in the postseason as well.
Martavis Bryant had all the talent in the world to be great. Even through a four-game drug suspension to start his second season, which would turn into five games because of injury, he was able to come back and impress, averaging 70 receiving yards per game and providing a dimension to their passing attack that they didn’t have.
He was completely derailed after he lost the entirety of the 2016 season due to another suspension. His end-of-season numbers in 2017 don’t look too bad, 50 catches for 603 yards, though with only three touchdowns, but that also speaks to an inconsistent performance.
Once it surfaced that he would be facing another suspension, the Steelers traded him to the Oakland Raiders for a third-round pick. He would be hit with another indefinite suspension at the end of the 2018 season. While he applied for reinstatement in July, I don’t believe there was ever any news after that. So his career continues to suffer because of punishments that would be obsolete under the new drug policy from the CBA proposal.
While Bryant got off to a good start for his career, it would be going too far to suggest he would have become a star. He surely has talent, or had talent, but he was also a very incomplete wide receiver who would struggle with routes and route concepts, would drop passes, and was inconsistent in contested situations.
Not only would the league eventually have caught up with him, the simple fact of the matter is that his issues go well beyond substance abuse. He has also reportedly battled depression, and had had general personal issues. Remember when he said JuJu Smith-Schuster was Sammie Coates’ replacement instead of his? He would have eventually derailed his own career, with or without a drug suspension.