Could the Steelers hold Martavis Bryant out longer than 4-game suspension?

Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant is currently serving a four-game suspension for substance abuse, but at least one plugged-in beat writer believes the team could hold him out even longer while he works on his issues.

The receiver is currently in Houston, Texas working with someone who “specializes in dealing with people who have addictions,” according to CBS Pittsburgh. That “someone” is former NBA player John Lucas, who has battled with addiction himself and who helps many athletes with these issues.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was asked about Bryant’s situation, and he gave an interesting response when asked if Bryant could be held out longer than the four games he’s currently serving, via NFL mandate.

“I would think that’s always possible,” Bouchette said. “I don’t think it’s automatic that as soon as that suspension is lifted that he’s going to return straight to the lineup. He could, he may very well, but I don’t think it’s automatic.”

Given the fact that Pittsburgh is currently looking quite potent offensively without Bryant, thanks to the resurgent Darrius Heyward-Bey, the Steelers might not feel inclined to bring him back immediately. Especially if the team considers his long-term mental health, rather than immediate football implications, holding him out could be a good thing.

There aren’t many receivers in the NFL right now with the kind of potential Bryant possesses to break games open. He burst onto the scene as a fourth-round pick out of Clemson last year, catching 26 passes for 549 yards (21.1 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns.

For most players who struggle with addiction, playing the game is a safe harbor. However, given the fact Bryant is actually getting help right now, rather than trying to deal with his issues on his own away from the team, Bouchette’s suggestion certainly has merit. If he can conquer some of his inner demons, then there’s no telling what kind of player, and person, Bryant can become.