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Steelers WR Bryant faces yearlong suspension; agent says he will appeal

| Saturday, March 12, 2016, 3:03 p.m.

Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant insisted he had learned from his four-game, drug-related suspension that cost him the first month of games last season.

Yet he is faced with possibly missing the 2016 season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

“He is currently facing a one-year suspension with an open appeal,” his agent, Tom Santanello, told the Tribune-Review on Saturday.

NFL officials had no comment, and the Steelers stood by their longtime policy of letting the league make the first move.

“We will have no comment until the NFL makes an announcement,” team spokesman Burt Lauten said.

USA Today reported that one of Bryant's representatives, Brian Fettner, said the receiver planned to check into rehab and undergo evaluation for depression.

“We're all stunned, me included,” Fettner told the newspaper. “We clearly miscalculated the issue. His isn't a party issue. It's a coping issue and a depression issue, and he's got to take care of it.”

Bryant failed four drug tests in a 16-month span after he left Clemson in 2014, resulting in his first suspension. After he returned in September, he told the Tribune-Review, “I am confident that it won't happen again.”

However, another suspension would suggest Bryant failed at least two more tests.

A recently amended NFL substance-abuse policy reduced the punishment for players who test positive for marijuana. More violations of the policy are required to trigger four-game, 10-game and yearlong suspensions.

The policy states:

• A first positive test puts a player in the substance-abuse program with no other discipline.

• A second results in a two-game fine.

• A third results in a four-game fine.

• A fourth results in a four-game suspension.

• The next failed test would be a 10-game suspension, followed by a year suspension.

Steelers president Art Rooney II said in January the team was happy with how Bryant was conducting himself after his suspension.

“Martavis is a player that has tremendous ability and potential,” Rooney said. “We just have to continue to work with him to make sure he takes care of his business off the field to put himself in a position to be as great a player as he can be. He's one of those guys where the sky is the limit. I hope the experience he had earlier this season made an impact on him. But it's one of those things where only time will tell.”

On Aug. 27, news surfaced that Bryant faced a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's drug policy. Four days later, his appeal request was denied. Bryant, the Steelers' fourth-round pick in 2014, played out the preseason before the suspension started.

He then sought counseling, spending three weeks with renowned specialist and former NBA player John Lucas.

If this latest suspension is upheld, it will be a big blow to a Steelers offense that appeared to be one of the NFL's best after the signing of play-making tight end Ladarius Green last week.

The Steelers re-signed veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey to a three-year deal last week.

The Steelers have receivers Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates to go with Heyward-Bey, but Bryant proved to be a difference maker.

Bryant, 24, caught 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games last season. He has 14 touchdowns in two seasons.

After quarterback Ben Roethlisberger called him out for substandard play, Bryant caught a key touchdown in the AFC wild-card win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

He then hauled in nine catches for 154 yards in a playoff loss to the Denver Broncos.

Mark Kaboly is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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