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Rossi: For Steelers and Penguins, it's time to move on

| Saturday, March 12, 2016, 9:33 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers must part ways with Martavis Bryant, who is facing a yearlong suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, columnist Rob Rossi says.

Some ailments last longer than others.

The headache we're feeling because of Martavis Bryant's reported suspension and the upset stomach over Evgeni Malkin's injury won't be shaken so easily.

So here's hoping everybody enjoyed the St. Patrick Day's Parade. Saturday morning was probably the last big party for a while around these parts.

The Steelers won't win the Super Bowl without Bryant. The Penguins won't make the Stanley Cup playoffs without Malkin.

(Pitt might not make the NCAA Tournament, either. But, really, that seems like piling on at this point.)

Pointing to the bigger picture, Saturday should mark the end of a business-as-usual for the Steelers and Penguins.

In the last decade, each has won big but not often enough. For both teams, talent has come with a price — and it's time to pay up.

The Steelers too often have catered to their most talented players. A line needs to be drawn, if not carved by a cold, steely knife.

Bryant must go.

The Steelers should cut him, cruel as that might seem.

His looming yearlong suspension because of a reported violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy reflects a problem the Steelers shouldn't feel obligated to solve. The Steelers' only obligation is to their players who can keep it together.

Bryant, sadly, can't.

It is sad because Bryant is as skilled a receiver as any in the history of a franchise with many great ones.

He's a deep threat to rival John Stallworth. He's a game-changer like Lynn Swann. He's almost the equal of Antonio Brown when it comes to turning a short pass into a long gain.

If only Bryant possessed the discipline of Hines Ward, who seemingly could will himself into overcoming even the most imagined of adversity.

Bryant's adversity is real. His inability to control his personal life is a serious problem and a terrible trial for him as life goes forward.

His life isn't going anywhere if the Steelers cut him additional slack. To have a chance at getting his life on track, Bryant needs to be cut.

He has blown a second chance. He must be made to realize the third strike is the one that put him on the outs with one of professional sports' great franchises.

And if the Steelers are to live up to that designation, they must use this opportunity to re-establish that no one player is bigger than their iconic emblem.

Ben Roethlisberger was.

James Harrison was.

Le'Veon Bell was.

By catering to their talent, the Steelers created an atmosphere of compliance. That oxygen didn't do them — or Bryant or LeGarrette Blount or others — any good.

The standard is greatness.

Bryant isn't living up to it. An example must be made.

So must an impossible decision by the Penguins, who haven't had Malkin and Sidney Crosby healthy for the same postseason since 2010.

They've at least played in the postseason since 2007, their run the second longest in franchise history and among current NHL teams.

All things must pass, however. All eras must end. The Crosby-Malkin era's time has come.

The copious cap space routinely tied into Malkin and Crosby isn't paying off for the Penguins, who have won two rounds in the same postseason only once since claiming the Cup in 2009.

Malkin, out up to two months with an upper-body injury, could be 30 the next time he plays in the NHL. Crosby has only one year left in his 20s.

Together, these two magnificent young men helped save, then revitalize, hockey in our city.

They came. They scored. They delivered.

It's not the fault of either player that injuries conspired to halt the presumed march of their Penguins. But the franchise seems stuck in neutral.

It can't go forward if the franchise centers keep going down.

To get back up, the Penguins need to come back next season with only one of their Big Two.

Rob Rossi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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