Fresh off their 20-12 Preseason win over the NY Giants, the Pittsburgh Steelers resumed practice at St. Vincent’s College and on Sunday, they were joined by one who hadn’t practiced there since 2015, WR Martavis Bryant. The 2014 Draft Pick was suspended for the 2015 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and he was conditionally reinstated in the Spring but was unable to practice with the team until he was fully reinstated last Wednesday.
“I felt great,” Said Bryant “ I have a little rust on me, I just have to get in shape and be here every day to get better. I’m in grate shape outside of football. It’s different when you have people puling on you and running with pads. I just have to come out here and run hard every day and I’ll be fine. I still have a lot of work to do. When the time comes, I’ll be ready to go.”
“He looked like Martavis.” Steelers HC Mike Tomlin said when asked about his WR “He’s a talented athlete and in good condition, but that’s just the element of it. Knocking the rust off and getting acclimated with what requires to win on this level will be a process. So it will be fun to watch him work through it.”
On Saturday, 24/7 Sports quoted Bryant as “Happy the process went through and happy to be out with my brothers playing football. Bryant did not play in the Steelers Preseason opener, and it’s still not known if he will play when the Steelers take on the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday at Heinz Field. The game will be at 4 pm.
One of Bryant’s goals should be to play a full-16 game schedule, something he hasn’t done since being selected by the Steelers in the 4th Round by the Steelers in 2014. His rookie season can be excused because he wasn’t activated until Week 7 in which his first reception was a 35-yard TD pass in a Steelers victory vs. the Houston Texans. He then went onto finish with 549 yards on only 26 receptions and 8 scores. He even scored a touchdown in the Wild Card playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens. For his efforts, he was named Steelers Rookie of the Year by his teammates.
And then the suspensions came. In 2015, Bryant has suspended the first 4 games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. But when he returned, he went right to work as he scored a touchdown in his first game against the Kansas City Chiefs and finished the season with even better Stats: 50 receptions for 765 yards and 6 scores. He even had a touchdown in the Steelers Wild Card win vs. Cincinnati in which he caught a spectacular pass for QB Ben Roethlisberger and somersaulted into the end zone.
During his suspension in 2016, the Steelers used several receivers in his place: Sammie Coates, Cobi Hamilton, Darius Heyward-Bey and DeMarcus Ayers. Each of those players had their moments, but none could duplicate what Bryant did. Many persons feel like Bryant could’ve made a huge difference in the Steelers AFC Championship Game vs. the New England Patriots. All-Pro WR Antonio Brown and 2nd-year player Eli Rogers did all they could do, but it was obvious that they missed Bryant.
In the offseason, the Steelers picked up speeds WR Justin Hunter and drafted JuJu Smith Shuster out of USC. The Still have Coates who is on the Physically Unable to Perform List as well as Hamilton (who caught a TD against the Giants), Ayers and Heyward-Bey. But the return of Bryant is huge as it once again pairs him with Brown to form a dangerous 1-2 WR punch.
As for the rest of camp, Tomlin had this to say: “It’s been a really productive day for us. It started with a tape study and our ability to evaluate our play and make necessary adjustments is a big part of team development. We had good energy at practice with guys returning who had missed some time. So a lot of productive things today and we’re ready to push forward and stay in training camp mode.”
Notes: CB Artie Burns who missed a week with a knee injury, returned to practice, and RB James Conner, CB Cam Sutton, and Smith-Shuster were limited. Smith-Shuster suffered a concussion in the game vs. the Giants and has been evaluated. Conner hasn’t been a full-time participant since injuring his shoulder 2 weeks ago.
Veteran players who didn’t practice: LB Ryan Shazier, S Mike Mitchell, LB Anthony Chickillo, Senquez Golson, Coates, and Ayers. All-Pro C Maurkise Pouncey also didn’t practice, but it was an excused absence.
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