NFL AM: Steelers WR Bryant Suspended For 4 Games


Bryant Pinched For Failing Drug Test

Already without the AFC’s leading rusher Le’Veon Bell for two games, the Pittsburgh Steelers will reportedly be without their explosive young wide receiver Martavis Bryant for four games after a drug violation.

The punishment is for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Thursday. Bryant failed several marijuana tests, a source told NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport. Bryant is appealing.

Football Insiders spoke to Bryant two weeks ago about his season and learning from professionals like Antonio Brown, who led the NFL in receiving in 2014.

“A.B. shows me how to work, Ben shows me how to work,” Bryant said.  “Anytime I need help I just talk to those guys and they’re always willing to help me out.  They took me under their wings and I want to thank them for that and I want to repay them and win this championship this year.”

A championship is always the goal in Pittsburgh, but they will have their work cut out for them in 2015.  The Steelers obviously reside in the ultra competitive AFC North, which featured two other playoff teams last season in the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.

Pittsburgh travels to New England in two weeks to open the season against the defending Super Bowl champs.  Even if the Patriots don’t have Tom Brady, the Steelers will be without Bell, Bryant and center Maurkice Pouncey, who will likely miss at least half of the season with an ankle injury.

The Steelers then return home to face the troubled San Francisco 49ers, then they travel to St. Louis in Bell’s season debut before returning home to face their most bitter rival, the Baltimore Ravens.  Baltimore flushed Pittsburgh out of the playoffs last season in impressive fashion.

Without a great margin for error, the Steelers are going to have to overcome injuries and suspensions in one of the toughest divisions in football.

Manuel Gets First-Team Audition

It has been rumored that former first-round pick E.J. Manuel might not be on the Buffalo Bills roster on opening day.

It appears that Manuel will get at least one more chance to prove that he deserves not only a roster spot, but the starting quarterback job.  Bills head coach Rex Ryan named Manuel the starter when the team plays the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday evening.

Manuel, the team’s top pick in 2013, will be the third starting quarterback the team has used this preseason. Matt Cassel started the opener and Tyrod Taylor started last week against the Cleveland Browns.

Coach Rex Ryan, who shuffled through quarterbacks in the last couple of years with the New York Jets, has said he won’t decide on a starter until just before the Bills open the season against the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 13.

It’s rare that a player is competing for both the starting quarterback job and a roster spot at the same time.  Even more rare when the player is a first-round pick entering just his third season and has no off the field issues.

So what does that tell you? 

E.J. Manuel has been pretty bad in his young NFL career.  He’s completed less than 60 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.  Although those numbers aren’t atrocious, he’s looked worse in person.

An NFC defensive player that lined up against Manuel in 2013 said he was “easily the worst quarterback that his team faced (all season long).”

Bills general manager Doug Whaley didn’t draft Manuel and Ryan certainly has no ties to the young signal caller.  He’s going to have to earn his job this season.

Hard Knocks Should Be Interesting Next Week

The Houston Texans are making HBO’s Hard Knocks very interesting this summer.

The highlight of the show may have been last Tuesday when head coach Bill O’Brien named Brian Hoyer his starting quarterback, and the conversation that he had with both players was televised.

This week should again be interesting as the man who lost the competition, Ryan Mallett, took exception to O’Brien’s decision. 

“Obviously I’m disappointed and I don’t agree with it, but I’ll be ready,” Mallett explained.

Ready is apparently a relative term.

Mallett missed Texans practice this morning and the Houston Chronicle is reporting that he overslept.

“That’s between Ryan and (me),” O’Brien said, per the Houston Chronicle. “That’s a personal issue with him.”

There’s no telling what Mallett’s punishment will be, but he’s putting together quite the resume for himself.  First he loses a starting quarterback job to Brian Hoyer, arguably one of the five worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL.  Then instead of putting his head down and giving the usual cliched response on “doing what’s best for the team,” Mallett voiced his displeasure.  Now he oversleeps and misses practice, doing nothing but justifying his head coach’s decision.

With a quarterback as mediocre as Hoyer at the helm, it’s possible that Mallett may still even get a shot to start in Houston this season.  With the way he’s acted, his next shot may be his last.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.