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Did Bryant Really Fail 4 Drug Tests?

By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about 15 hours ago

Good morning,

Now we know why the Steelers drafted receiver Sammie Coates in the third round this year. They had to know that Martavis Bryant was on the verge of a suspension for what was reported by NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport as repeated failed drug tests for marijuana.

What is interesting about this is the new NFL drug policy passed last September liberalized the discipline meted out for marijuana use.

Here is what it is:

--- First positive test puts the player in the substance abuse program with no other discipline.

--- Second positive draws a two-game fine.

--- Third positive draws a four-game fine.

--- Fourth positive draws a four-game suspension.

Therefore, for the NFL to suspend Bryant, he had to test positive for marijuana on four separate occasions. This also would not have been the old “second-hand” marijuana smoke either because the threshold for a positive test of marijuana in the system was more than doubled by the NFL in its new drug policy.

Bryant isn’t the only one who has failed multiple tests. New York Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson also was suspended this year for four games for marijuana use.

We do not know when Bryant failed all these tests. He had to have failed one last summer and gone into the system because otherwise he would not have been tested once preseason games started.

So he may have been playing his rookie season for a lot less money because since the NFL has now suspended him for four games, the other steps would have included fines of six weeks pay. Perhaps that is why the Steelers did not dress him for the first six games of the season.

He will lose another four games this season of pay this season as well as play for the first time, pending his appeal that is reportedly going on.

His next positive test would draw a 10-game suspension.

Now we know why the Steelers drafted receiver Sammie Coates in the third round.

---

Ben Roethlisberger offered a sensible solution to the debate about what to do with the four-game preseason that no one seems to like:

Don’t play the vets or starters much at all.

“I think it depends on how long you have been playing,’’ Roethlisberger said. “when you have rookies, you probably want to get them as much time as you can. Like I said, maybe the owners – or coaches, I should say – should say you’re going to play one half of one game and one half of another and call it quits.’’

That is pretty much how Mike Tomlin has used Roethlisberger and many of his veteran starters in the preseason. The quarterback and most key vets did not play at all in the bonus first game at Canton. The key players on offense were in for six snaps in the second game. They played only one series into the second quarter in the third game last Sunday.

Roethlisberger predicted they will play the entire first half or even a little into the second in Buffalo. But when I asked him if he and his offense really needed all that work, he said, “I don’t think so.’’

“I think we’ve shown enough and worked hard. The good thing is that our offense has everybody back. So, we can get that work and pick up where we left off in training camp.’’


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Bryant suspension could be trouble for Steelers

Ray Fittipaldo 1 day ago

Second-year receiver Martavis Bryant has been suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Bryant can appeal the suspension, but if he is out for four games it is a big blow to the offense.

After the Steelers struggled to score against Jacksonville and Cleveland in back-to-back games last season, managing only 27 points combined against two of the league’s worst defenses, the coaching staff made a significant change in personnel.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley inserted rookie receiver Martavis Bryant into the lineup after he sat out the first six games. The Steelers averaged 27 points per game over the final 10 games of the regular season to finish the season among the top offenses in the league.

That one change didn’t transform the offense on its own, but it went a long way toward getting the right balance with personnel.

Markus Wheaton went from starter to part-time player and Bryant assumed the snaps Wheaton had been getting. Wheaton, who averaged 62 snaps per game in the first six games, averaged 40 over the final 10. Bryant averaged 33 snaps and provided the Steelers with the big-play ability No. 2 receivers in the NFL are expected to provide.

Now that balance is compromised in the short-term and perhaps the long-term if Bryant doesn’t adhere to the policy in the future.

Antonio Brown remains the No. 1 receiver, but Wheaton is likely to shift back to the outside. He had been playing in the slot. The Steelers also have veteran Darrius-Heyward Bey and rookie Sammie Coates at their disposal when they play three-receiver sets.

“Someone has to step up, period,” receivers coach Richard Mann said. “You have to be able to play the cards that you’re dealt, and that’s what we have to do.”

Mann said it shouldn’t be a big deal for Wheaton to move back outside.

“I’ve been moving him from outside to inside the whole time,” Mann said.

Earlier in the day, coach Mike Tomlin said rookie Sammie Coates is in better condition than Bryant at this stage of their first season. I asked Mann is Coates could be an option.

“If I’m dealt those cards we’ll figure out the best scenario that we can use to jury-rig it,” Mann said. “We’ll just go with it. We’ve been coaching every one of them. Those guys who haven’t been getting as many reps they have to step up and get more reps.”


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Gradkowski's time with Steelers could be over

Ray Fittipaldo 2 days ago

Lost amid Michael Vick Watch on Tuesday was the news that Bruce Gradkowski’s season and perhaps his Steelers career could be over.

Gradkowski was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday two days after an errant snap caused two injuries. Gradkowski, who grew up in Green Tree and Dormont, injured a finger that required surgery. He also injured his right shoulder on the play, and coach Mike Tomlin told reporters yesterday that he might need additional surgery to repair his throwing shoulder.

Shoulder surgery is never good news for a quarterback, especially one in the final year of his contract. Gradkowski had been the backup to Ben Roethlisberger for the past two seasons. The Steelers signed Vick to a one-year deal to be the backup this season and are expected to keep Landry Jones as their No. 3 quarterback.

Gradkowski’s future will be determined by his health and what the coaches think of Jones’ development. Gradkowski, 32, had problems with his shoulder going back to the spring. He opened training camp on the PUP list with the hope that rest, not surgery, would cure the discomfort.

That game plan did not work and now surgery is required to fix it. But Gradkowski’s shoulder is only part of the equation. The Steelers did not believe Jones was ready to be a No. 2 quarterback this season, but he did improve this summer.

The question now is whether the Steelers believe Jones can ascend to that role next summer.

When Gradkowski came off the PUP list a couple of weeks ago he took stock of his career and reflected on his NFL journey.

“I’m very thankful to be playing this game, going into my 10th year,” he said. “I’m just trying to enjoy it. There is nothing like being out here with the guys and trying to get ready for the season. It’s truly a blessing. I try to thank God every day. I never would have imagined I’d be going into my 10th year in the NFL. I just want to take advantage of that and have fun while I’m playing. Who knows how long I’ll play? You have to take advantage of that.”

Now Gradkowski will spend his 10th NFL season on injured reserve and his future is unclear. If Gradkowski is done with the Steelers, he played in two games for his hometown black and gold. The only time he got to throw passes for the Steelers was the playoff game against the Ravens in January. He was 2 for 3 for 22 yards.


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Vick Coming? It's What We Suggested Early in Camp

By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3 days ago

Good morning,

The reports that Michael Vick is making a trip to the Steelers to possibly sign with them as a backup quarterback should be of no surprise.

Here is what I wrote in this space on July 30 when I suggested rather strongly that the Steelers sign Michael Vick back THEN:

Good morning,

It’s time for the Steelers to go get another backup quarterback. Now.

Bruce Gradkowski did not practice for most of the spring because he had a sore arm and he opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list for what the Steelers term “arm fatigue.’’ It is ironic that Gradkowski would have a tired arm because he has not thrown a pass in his two regular seasons with the Steelers.

The other day, Gradkowski was quoted as saying he thought it might be a few weeks before he starts practicing. In the meantime, the quarterbacks behind Ben Roethlisberger have been dreadful in the early goings of training camp, continuing their showing in the spring. It’s so bad that they have trouble handling shotgun snaps from center, dropping them and ruining yet another practice play. Wednesday was particularly bad for them.

Landry Jones and Taj Boyd cannot be the No. 2 quarterback. Quarterbacks-to-wide receivers-toquarterbacks Devin Gardner and Tyler Murphy should not be taking snaps at all. Murphy wears No. 16 and the Steelers probably wish the man who used to wear that number at quarterback was back in that position, Charlie Batch, instead of preparing to broadcast games for them on KDKA-TV.

But there is one quarterback out there available. He has a little age on him and he carries some old baggage. His name is Michael Vick, who turned 35 last month.

He comes from the same Tidewater area of Virginia as coach Mike Tomlin, who made inquiries about signing Vick after he was released from federal prison in 2009 after serving 21 months for his dog fighting conviction. The distractions, though, were considered too much for the Steelers and it was never seriously pursued. He signed with the Eagles that August.

Vick has since gone about working to rebuild his reputation. His teammates in Philadelphia voted him the winner of the Ed Block Courage Award. He has worked to try to get passed the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act in Congress.

He also long has had well-documented financial problems.

But he can still play football as the Steelers found out last November when he threw two touchdown passes and no interceptions in he New York Jets’ 20-13 upset victory against them. He also ran eight times for 39 yards in that game.

The Jets were Vick’s second team since his pre-jail days in Atlanta with the Falcons. He played five years for the Eagles and last season for the Jets, who did not try to re-sign him when he became an unrestricted free agent in March.

He’s been trying to find another job with an NFL team since then with no luck. Last week, he issued a video of himself through Twitter to remind all that he can still throw a football.

“I think that I’ve done a lot throughout the course of my career,’’ Vick told the NFL Network in June. “I’ve proved that I can win games and play with some consistency and be a leader. I think those are the qualities that you want in a quarterback.’’

The Steelers have one of those already in Ben Roethlisberger, who has not missed a regular-season snap to injury in the past two seasons. They are praying right now that he can do it for three in a row because the alternatives could be disastrous.

What they need right now is a quality backup, someone who can at least handle a snap from center and does not have a mysterious sore right arm. That first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings will look more like the Hall of Shame game with anyone but Roethlisberger playing quarterback for the Steelers with Gradkowski out. And Mike Tomlin is not about to let Roethlisberger play much in that game.

Vick is by far the best free agent quarterback available. The Steelers are in desperate need to find one. Tomlin knows him. What could it hurt to sign him? Now.


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Pouncey Possible Short-Term IR Candidate

By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 days ago

Good morning,

Some stuff:

--- Young players on the Steelers defense played well Sunday, including rookie linebacker Bud Dupree. He had a sack for 11 yards, had another taken away and just missed a third when Ian Wild was credited with one. Jarvis Jones had a sack, as did Shamarko Thomas, who was second on the team with five solo tackles.

Those were the first sacks of the summer for Dupree and Jones, which should hold down the rants of those who think they were wasted draft picks for, oh, five minutes or so.

--- Antwon Blake is making it very hard for the Steelers to keep someone else at cornerback. His play on the punt in the first quarter, downing the ball at the one, led to James Harrison’s sack and safety. He also led the team with six solo tackles. With Cortez Allen, William Gay and Brandon Boykin, the Steelers would seem to have room for two or three more cornerbacks. Those could be Blake, rookie Doran Grant and Kevin Fogg. They opened with six on the roster last season.

--- If they go with six corners, as they did last season, that would leave room for four or five safeties (they opened with five last season). After Shamarko Thomas, Mike Mitchell and Will Allen, that would leave Ross Ventrone, Ian Wild, Robert Golden and Gerod Holliman fighting for two or three spots.

--- But if they keep 11 defensive backs, that does not leave room for the 10 or so linebackers some figure they might keep. With 11 defensive backs on the opening day roster last season, they kept only eight linebackers – and one of them was not James Harrison.

With eight, here is how things will stack up: The four starters plus Bud Dupree, James Harrison, Sean Spence and Vince Williams. Where does that leave Anthony Chickillo, Terence Garvin and Howard Jones? Out unless they go to nine, then one of them can be added.

--- Landry Jones had his best game as a pro, albeit all in the preseason. He completed 10 of 19 passes for 172 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 96.8 passer rating. He looks to be competing for the No. 2 job, especially now with Bruce Gradkowski hurt. Although an injured finger on his left hand should not prevent Gradkowski from playing, it does give Jones a chance to open as the No. 2 quarterback.

--- Dri Archer does not look instinctive returning kickoffs and he has done little on offense. If he were not a third-round pick, he would not be a threat to make the team.

--- Shakim Phillips won’t make the 53-man roster but he has enough intriguing talent that he could make the practice squad.

--- DeAngelo Williams knows how to run and should be an adequate starter for the first two games of the season.

--- Maurkice Pouncey might be an ideal subject for the short-term injured reserve list, which is open to just one player per team. The rule stipulates that a player must be on IR for eight weeks. After six weeks, he can begin practicing but cannot play for eight weeks. He also must be on the final 53-man roster before he can go on IR. Pouncey’s injury will keep him out at least that long and once the surgeon goes in there to most likely put a plate on his broken fibula, they may find it more complicated and it will take longer for him to heal and, if possible, return this season.

--- Rookie Senquez Golson will open the season on the PUP and likely remain there. Since he did not practice all summer and then had shoulder surgery last week, it is unlikely he could come off that PUP list at midseason and play anyway.

--- And now, some Ask Ed:

--- YOU: Do you see the Steelers looking outside of the organization to fill in for Pouncey or are they all in on Cody Wallace? Evan Mathis has not played center (to my knowledge) but he's a pretty skilled interior lineman and pieces could be moved around. It doesn't seem like the Steelers' style but this injury really strains the depth and has to change the way that they feel about the line as a whole.

ED: They will go with Cody Wallace, although finding a backup for him would not be out of the question.

It may be of interest to remember that when Pouncey was hurt on that first series of 2013, Kelvin Beachum replaced him at center. Then they signed Fernando Velasco and he stepped right in and started the second game at center. When he was hurt near the end of the season, Wallace started at center the final four games.

--- YOU: Beachum to Center and AV at LT might be a better set than Wallace just filling in for Pouncey. I think KB has the "quick" and hand strength to play that position and fend off DT/NTs. Also, if he performs, his utility might set him up for the contract extension he wants for next year.

ED: As I mentioned, that is so two years ago. Beachum will stay at left tackle and Wallace will start. You don’t change two positions to repair one.

--- YOU: I know your not a doctor but in Pouncey's case, is the Fibula season ending. I'm not even sure if it's actual bone or cartilage. If he goes on the partial injured reserve or whatever they call it it will give him eleven weeks to recover (two more weeks preseason, bye week and eight games).

ED: And you know I am not a doctor, how? The fibula is a bone, not cartilage, and it depends how seriously that bone was broken, along with its effect on the ankle, to know how long it might take to heal.

--- YOU: When does a player acquire the injury prone tag that causes them to no longer worth the investment? I really like Pouncey and realize that these have been "bad luck" injuries. Sam Bradford had a couple bad luck ACL's and was found to be not worth the potential risk... At a certain point we are going to also have some decisions to make for cap purposes. Would this factor into that type of decision?

ED: Pouncey did not have a couple of bad-luck ACL injuries. He had torn ACL/MCL in 2013 and now a broken leg, both the result of players firing into the back of him. That does not make him injury prone.


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