Should the Steelers Sign Martavis Bryant?

Martavis Bryant

Getty Martavis Bryant making a one-handed catch while a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A week ago former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant applied for reinstatement to the NFL.

Assuming he is, in fact, reinstated: Should the Steelers attempt to bring him back to Pittsburgh?

Is There a Spot Available on the Steelers’ Roster?

The first question to consider is whether there is space available for another wide receiver on Pittsburgh’s roster?

The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. There are only four wide receivers on the 90-man roster who are assured of spots: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington and second-round draft choice Chase Claypool.

Seeing that the Steelers keep at least five wide receivers—and oftentimes six—there is room for at least one more.

And while a team’s fifth wide receiver typically needs to be a big-time contributor on special teams, head coach Mike Tomlin has already announced plans to utilize Chase Claypool on special teams, potentially leaving the door open for a player like Bryant.

And from a talent perspective, Bryant is miles ahead of his competition for the fifth and sixth roster spots, where Ryan Switzer and third-year man Deon Cain are the leading contenders.

Martavis Bryant’s Career with the Steelers

After being drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft—#118 overall—Bryant played in a total of 36 games with the Steelers, including 16 starts. During those games he caught 126 passes for 1,917 yards and 17 touchdowns, for an average of 15.2 yards per reception.

But as noted in the above-linked article, Bryant had a gift for making big plays. In fact, he caught three 80+ yard touchdown passes in his first 11 games in the NFL. This as compared to Jerry Rice and Jordy Nelson, who hold the post-merger NFL record for most touchdowns of 80-plus yards in a career with four each.

Of course, one can’t ignore the fact that the Steelers shipped Bryant out of Pittsburgh, trading him to the Raiders for a third-round draft choice. Moreover, Bryant struggled to make an impact in Oakland. In eight games with the Raiders he made only two starts, catching just 19 passes for 266 yards and zero touchdowns before landing on injured reserve with a knee injury.

But maybe Bryant’s lack of success with the Raiders makes him more likely to return to Pittsburgh, where he had success with a quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, who is making a comeback in his own right.

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On the other hand, there is no guarantee that Bryant has matured—and that his off-the-field troubles are behind him.

Bryant’s relationship with the other receivers on the team is a question mark too. You may recall that in the moments after the Steelers drafted JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft, Martavis tweeted out the message: “lol that’s Sammie coates replacement not minds take it how you want to I am back.” Bryant went on to confirm that the tweet was not a friendly jab, and to this day it remains one of the most infamous tweets to come from a player’s account.

Meanwhile, Martavis Bryant has been out of football since December 14, 2018. On that day the NFL said: “Effective immediately, Martavis Bryant has been returned to the Reserve/Commissioner Suspended list for violating the terms of his April 2017 conditional reinstatement under the Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.”

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