Steelers GM Colbert 'disappointed' in Bryant for being suspended

Mark Kaboly
| Monday, March 14, 2016, 2:24 p.m.

Martavis Bryant won't be putting on a Steelers' uniform this year — the NFL made the decision Monday.

Whether he ever puts one on again is up to the embattled wide receiver — Steelers and general manager Kevin Colbert made that decision not long after the NFL suspended Bryant for the 2016 season.

“He is at a crossroads of his professional life, and he needs to understand significant changes need to occur in his personal life if he wants to regain his career as a Pittsburgh Steeler,” Colbert said in a statement.

The NFL announced a “minimum” one-year suspension without pay for Bryant after violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. Bryant's suspension begins immediately and he was placed on the reserved/suspended list.

Bryant's agent, Tom Santanello, originally told the Tribune-Review that Bryant would appeal the suspension, but confirmed after the announcement that they would not appeal.

The Steelers admonished Bryant in a statement released by Colbert, but alluded they will not release him.

“We are very disappointed that Martavis Bryant has put himself in this current situation of being suspended by the League,” Colbert said. “We are hopeful that Martavis will take the necessary steps to develop the discipline in his personal life to become a successful player and a good teammate.”

Bryant, 24, was suspended four games at the start of last season for failing his fourth drug test. The recently altered drug rules allow for three failed tests before a suspension incurs.

Bryant reportedly missed multiple tests, which count the same as failed tests. A fifth failed test results in a 10-game suspension. A sixth is a season-long suspension.

Bryant will be able to apply for reinstatement Jan. 13. Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon has yet to be reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell 14 months after getting suspended for a season for multiple violations.

Bryant will have to forfeit his 2016 salary of $600,000. However, the Steelers will be credited that amount toward this year's salary cap. The Steelers will also get credit for a prorated portion of Bryant's signing bonus that works out to $109,805.

Teams are required under the collective bargaining agreement to recoup signing bonuses for PED and substance-abuse suspensions.

Including the current suspension, Bryant will have forfeited in excess of $850,000 in base salary, or nearly 60 percent of his career earnings.

Bryant failed four drug tests in a 16-month span that resulted in his first suspension at the start of the 2015 season.

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

It was made public Aug. 27 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 kicked in.

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

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

In the playoffs — after Ben Roethlisberger called out Bryant for his substandard late-season play — Bryant caught a key touchdown in the wild-card win over the Bengals and hauled in nine passes for 154 yards in the playoff loss to the Broncos with Antonio Brown sidelined with a concussion.

The Steelers re-signed Darrius Heyward-Bey last week and brought in free agent pass-catching tight end Ladarius Green.

However, the Steelers will likely rely on second-year receiver Sammie Coates to fill the void.

Coates had one reception in seven games during the regular season but had a breakout game in the playoffs against the Broncos, catching two passes for 61 yards, including a 37-yard run-and-catch.

Note: Alejandro Villanueva was awarded $309,834 under the NFL's performance-based pay policy, which is based on playing time compared to salary. Villanueva started 10 games after Kelvin Beachum was lost for the year with a knee injury. Villanueva made the league-minimum $435,000.

Mark Kaboly is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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