The Pittsburgh Steelers have exercised quite a bit of patience with young receiver Martavis Bryant as he has focused on the substance abuse issues that found him suspended for four weeks. Bryant’s initial suspension may have looked, initially, to have been a minor issue. Beneath the surface, Bryant was exorcising some demons the Steelers kept close to the vest. Head coach Mike Tomlin, like the Steelers staff, couldn’t elaborate on Bryant due to league policy, but during his time away from the team it was clear he had deeper issues. The question now is whether Bryant can return without suspicion and recreate a chemistry with his teammates and the coaching staff.
On Monday, Bryant exited the Steelers locker room in his uniform, but his trials aren’t over. Even if he is able to get ready for next Monday night’s game against the San Diego Chargers, he has a long road ahead to recovering confidence in himself and those around him.
“I’ve been through a lot these last few weeks, so it feels good to be back,” Bryant admitted before going into more detail about his off-field issues. “I sought out help outside of the facility to be more focused…now, I’m back here focused and better prepared to move forward with my career.
Bryant spent three weeks of treatment in Houston, Texas; he needed some life counseling on top of a reality check on the issues surrounding his use of banned substances. That he recognized he needed help speaks to a level of maturity as many who need help often do not seek it out.
“I learned a lot about myself, especially from the mistakes I’ve made. Just learning from my mistakes and how to prevent mistakes from happening. Just about becoming a better man,” Bryant said. “I learned from it and I just want to move forward. I’m going to put everything in the past and work on becoming better from it, and a better football player.”
Bryant got support from a teammate in Ben Roethlisberger. As anyone who has been through any type of treatment or extensive counseling will tell you; support is key to success. Roethlisberger kept in communication daily, something Bryant admitted helped him greatly.
“I highly appreciate him doing that, taking the time to text me every morning,” said Bryant. “Especially, during the season when he was focused on his job.”
During his time between counseling, Bryant focused on twice-a-day workouts: lifting weights, conditioning and even catching passes from a trainer to stay in shape physically. And, even if he couldn’t be with the team physically, Bryant kept track of his teammates and their progress.
“We’re going to keep developing our chemistry and just make sure we are ready on Monday,” Bryant said. “We just have to continue to work and progress.”
Progress will not be easy. While Bryant has been away, Darrius Heyward-Bey moved into his role. Bryant may be physically ready, but the mental aspect of the game will be one that will test him on a deeper level. Confidence in himself and confidence in his teammates will take time, and the road back from an experience such as the one Bryant faced even tests friendships. His hardest test yet may be rediscovering his place in the locker room and on the field while he continues to work through personal demons.
Bryant’s demeanor on Monday was cheerfully optimistic. If he can set his focus on a better future – for himself and then his teammates – Bryant may just have made an important life change that has enormous potential.
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