Are Steelers keeping Martavis Bryant from playing in order to trade him?

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 08: Martavis Bryant
PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 08: Martavis Bryant /

Martavis Bryant is not going to play on Sunday, per Mike Tomlin. Is this because the Steelers are preparing to trade him?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have said that they are not going to trade Martavis Bryant. Their actions might be saying otherwise. The talented wide receiver has told reporters that he is not happy and he’s made it clear that he’d be fine if the Steelers were done with him. Now the news has come that the Steelers have told Bryant that he will not play on Sunday.

There’s two ways to read this situation:

  1. The Steelers might mean exactly what they say: they aren’t dealing Bryant but they’re also going to deal with him. Bryant is an emotional young player and maybe head coach Mike Tomlin is trying to teach him a lesson. The best teams are filled with players who realize they are not bigger than the team, that each player has to sacrifice something individually to achieve something together. Maybe Tomlin is going to put Bryant through that gauntlet in order to change his perspective.
  2. The Steelers might be preparing to deal him due to the headaches he’s causing and there’s no way to trade an injured player. The NFL’s trade deadline is coming up early next week on October 31, which means if the Steelers played Bryant this week and he was somehow injured, they wouldn’t be able to recoup anything for him. Might as well store him on the shelf so they can deal him later.

It’s easy to picture either one of these scenarios being the right one. Teams like the Steelers hardly ever telegraph that a player is widely available, since no one is going to pay top dollar for a player who is obviously going to be released in a matter of days. The Cowboys tried to pull the same with Tony Romo earlier this offseason only to find no takers because they knew he would be released later on. (Little did anyone know that CBS would trump all potential homes and lure him into retirement.)

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That said, Chiefs fans will certainly remember when Todd Haley threw down the hammer on inside linebacker Derrick Johnson. DJ was already the starter in the middle, but Haley benched him for an entire season in order to get him to understand what it meant to be a professional player. Johnson was never the same and remains a standout performer into his mid-thirties.

If the Steelers are open to moving Bryant, it will be interesting to see who lines up to be a suitor. The Chiefs have been mentioned in conjuction due to injuries at wideout, from the season-ending injury to Chris Conley to more limited concerns for guys like Tyreek Hill or Albert Wilson. Adding another wrinkle to the team’s offense with Bryant would make an already potent offense that much tougher to defend.

However, my bet is that Tomlin meant what he said when Bryant isn’t going anywhere—including on the field. Bryant is not bigger than the team and he likely won’t force anyone’s hand. That might not sit well with him, but he can sit on the bench until it does.