SportsPulse’s Trysta Krick checks in with Jarrett Bell at Pittsburgh Steelers training camp on how this could be the last season for the team’s dominant offense.
USA TODAY Sports
LATROBE, Pa. – Talk about having special status. Martavis Bryant has been the man pretty much operating on some sort of double-secret probation as the Pittsburgh Steelers conduct training camp.
That changed a bit on Wednesday night, when the league reinstated him for all preseason activities. But he has yet to be fully reinstated for the regular season by the NFL from a drug suspension that has lasted over a year.
Before the ruling Wednesday, Bryant’s conditional return allowed the Steelers to see, touch and even talk X’s and O’s with the explosive receiver.
He could eat in the cafeteria, attend meetings, sign autographs for fans … and comply with Mike Tomlin’s nightly curfew.
Yes, Bryant had all the glory of the training camp regimen except one thing: He couldn’t practice.
Now he is allowed to practice and play in preseason games … with a ruling on regular season games coming later in August.
The NFL has yet to fully close the book on Bryant’s suspension, which came after multiple violations of the league’s substance abuse policy and included the stipulation that his engagement with clinical resources is confirmed.
Why that hasn’t happened yet is the big mystery at the Steelers’ camp.
“It’s driving us all crazy,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told USA TODAY Sports after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s busting his butt. Guys have talked to him and it seems that he’s doing everything right and everything they’ve asked him to do.
“It’s like, ‘What’s the holdup, league?’ Let’s go.”
In the meantime, while the Steelers practiced on two fields this week, as usual, Bryant could be seen working out alone on a third field.
Tomlin insisted that he was in the dark, too, when it came to predicting when the league might clear Bryant, who was also suspended for four games in 2015 for violating the substance abuse policy.
“I’m not in position to urge them to do anything,” Tomlin said Wednesday, before the ruling came down. “I’m waiting just like you guys are. (But) there’s value in practice, obviously.”
Of course, Bryant isn’t the only major weapon missing from the Steelers lineup. Le’Veon Bell, the NFL’s best all-around running back, still hasn’t signed his franchise tag tender and reported to camp.
At least there’s a bit of definition with Bell’s case. The sides can’t strike a long-term until after the 2017 season, meaning Bell will earn the $12.1 million franchise tag number if he plays.
Tomlin said he’s maintained contact with Bell during his absence, but can’t shed any light on when his workhorse back might report.
Roethlisberger, meanwhile, says he’s been unsuccessful in connecting with Bell.
“I texted him a couple of times, but he hasn’t texted me back,” Roethlisberger said. “Can’t force him to.”
Roethlisberger realizes the dynamic in play with Bell, and the limitations of the franchise tag.
“You either show up or you don’t,” Roethlisberger said. “They’re not negotiating anymore. There’s nothing else that can happen (for this season). So we’re all antsy to get him here. He’s one of our brothers.”
Follow NFL columnist Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.
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