If the Pittsburgh Steelers can hold together this season, they’ll be the most formidable AFC challenge the New England Patriots have faced since Peyton Manning’s best days. But Pittsburgh holding together is always a dubious proposition given the many sharp-edged star personalities involved.
Now one of those stars, Martavis Bryant, is trying to head off problems before they happen … or stoking fires that had burned to embers, whichever you prefer. Bryant was suspended for four games in 2015 and the entire 2016 season for violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy, and that didn’t sit particularly well with at least one of his teammates.
“He has to win back everybody’s trust,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said earlier this year. “I would hope he comes up to me and we go somewhere to talk in private. After that, he has to show with his work ethic and by staying clean that he cares—really cares—about us. If he does that, it’ll be huge. He can really help us. He can be so great.” Roethlisberger added that he felt “let down” by Bryant, and for whatever reason, these comments didn’t sit so well with Bryant.
“I mean, at that time, I was going through a lot of stuff. I wasn’t really even worried about his opinion at that time, because there was just a lot that was going on,” Bryant told ESPN on Thursday. “He’s my brother. I love him. But at the same time, I have my own family outside of football. I have my own problems. I’m not just going to come up to you and open up to you about what’s going on with my personal life. That’s not how I am. We just didn’t see eye-to-eye on that, but as far as right now, everything’s great.”
Even so, Bryant indicated that the “in private” meeting that Roethlisberger is seeking ought to happen. “We should have a man-to-man,” he said. “Because some of the things he put out there about me, I kind of didn’t agree with how he did it. So I want to sit down and hear his own opinion, man-to-man, about why he did that.”
Bryant has only played 21 games in his career, but his ceiling is phenomenally high; he’s already got 14 touchdowns and more than 1,300 yards. He’s been conditionally reinstated by the NFL, and says he’s been clean for more than a year. If he lines up with Antonio Brown, he becomes an integral part of a vicious Pittsburgh offense, Roethlisberger will see his own stats skyrocket, and the Steelers instantly become a legitimate Super Bowl contender. If.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.