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Martavis Bryant faces yearlong ban; agent says WR fighting depression

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Even losing Bryant, Pittsburgh have weapons to work with (1:18)

ESPN Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler says Pittsburgh braced for off-the-field troubles with WR Martavis Bryant by drafting Sammie Coates, picking up Ladarius Green and re-signing Darrius Heyward-Bey. (1:18)

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant is facing a yearlong suspension from the NFL, his agent confirmed to ESPN on Saturday.

The suspension is related to NFL drug testing, a source told ESPN. Bryant's agent, Tom Santanello, said Saturday that the talented receiver plans to appeal the suspension.

Another of his agents, Brian Fettner, told USA Today Sports that Bryant, who served a four-game suspension last season for violating the league's substance abuse policy, is fighting depression and plans to enter rehab Sunday for evaluation.

"We're all stunned, me included," Fettner told USA Today Sports. "We clearly miscalculated the issue. His isn't a party issue. It's a coping issue and a depression issue, and he's got to take care of it.

"This is the biggest cry for help I've ever seen, and that hurts. It hurts us to see. He's 24 years old, and he's got to get right, whatever it is. If you talk to anybody's family that has depression, they will be talking about these same things -- the [despondence], the withdrawal, the head-in-the-sand despair -- just trying to cope."

DKPittsburghSports.com was first to report the potential suspension Saturday morning.

"Until there's something official from the NFL, we won't be commenting," Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said.

After returning from his four-game suspension, Bryant had a productive 2015 season for the Steelers, hauling in 50 receptions for 765 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games.

Pittsburgh's decision to sign receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey to a three-year extension was a direct result of Bryant's potential absence in 2016, a source told ESPN. The Steelers likely would have re-signed Heyward-Bey, but if not for the possibility of Bryant's absence, Heyward-Bey wouldn't have had the leverage to earn a three-year deal. Pittsburgh also signed tight end Ladarius Green to a four-year, $20 million deal.

The Steelers knew Bryant had off-the-field concerns coming out of Clemson in the 2014 draft, so they took a calculated risk on him with a fourth-round pick.

On the field, Bryant has rewarded the Steelers for that faith by scoring 14 touchdowns in 21 career games. But the team needs him to stay on the field, which has been a recurring problem.

Bryant, who was spending part of his offseason in Los Angeles, is due $600,000 in 2016 salary, the third year of a four-year rookie contract. If the suspension holds, the Steelers would get salary-cap relief by washing that money off their books.

The low salary could give the Steelers incentive to keep him on the team and give him another chance to turn his life around.

Upon returning from his suspension in October, Bryant thanked the Steelers for their support and said he "learned" from his mistake and wanted to "move on from it and put it in the past." Bryant also said he had spent time with former NBA player and coach John Lucas, who operates a substance abuse recovery facility in Texas.