Are the Steelers adding a secret weapon in their quest to catch up to the Patriots as an AFC superpower?
Appearing on Thursday’s edition of Up to the Minute Live, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that suspended wide receiver Martavis Bryant believes he will soon be returning to Pittsburgh.
“When you speak to people close to him,” Rapoport said, “they are confident that in the near future he will get word that he has been reinstated to the NFL.”
Bryant is awaiting confirmation from Commissioner Roger Goodell after applying for reinstatement in mid-January.
As confident as Bryant’s camp might be, the Steelers organization has been hesitant to place full faith in his availability. General manager Kevin Colbert made that abundantly clear in early March:
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert: ‘Martavis (Bryant) was a great asset to us when he was available.’
Just this week, coach Mike Tomlin expressed a similar sentiment.
“From a professional standpoint, we understand the nature of this business, that the train moves on,” Tomlin said, via ESPN.com. “And we have been on it now for 12 months. Hopefully he will get the opportunity to maybe get onto the moving train.”
That said, the tide may be starting to turn. The Steelers now have legitimate hope that Bryant will be back for the start of offseason workouts on April 17, NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala reported Friday.
As complimentary as Tomlin has been about third-year deep threat Sammie Coates, Pittsburgh sorely missed Bryant’s dynamic presence opposite Antonio Brown last season.
Since Bryant entered the league in 2014, the Steelers have scored 30 or more points in roughly half of the games he has played. Without Bryant in the lineup, that percentage is closer to 30 percent.
The range of outcomes for Ben Roethlisberger’s attack might be as varied as any in football this season. If Bryant and Brown recapture dominant 2015 form, All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell avoids injury and speedy tight end Ladarius Green overcomes concussion concerns, this offense’s ceiling is as high as any in the game.
If those ingredients aren’t in sync come playoff time, though, they can forget about matching the Patriots’ firepower.