PITTSBURGH (AP) — When Darrius Heyward-Bey heard about Martavis Bryant’s one-year suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, the elder statesmen among the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers sent his talented but erratic teammate a note.
“I told him we have his back,” Heyward-Bey said. “I told him we can’t wait to see him in 2017.”
The Steelers will have to navigate through 2016 first, and do it without the player most capable of providing the big-play yin to All-Pro Antonio Brown’s relentless yang.
The 6-foot-4 Bryant scored 14 touchdowns in 21 games, his physicality and speed a difficult matchup for any defense that placed too much attention on the slippery Brown.
And now he’s gone, off trying to get his life back together after a second violation in less than a year.
“He was a big weapon for us, obviously,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “One of the best and had a chance to be one of the best in the NFL. He was growing and was getting better.
“It hurts. It’s unfortunate and it disappointed all of us, especially a guy I felt I was getting really close to and reached out to a lot when it…