LATROBE, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Steelers finally got the news they were waiting for Thursday when the NFL announced receiver Martavis Bryant was allowed to begin participating in practices and preseason games. Bryant hadn't been allowed to practice for the first two weeks of camp because he hadn't satisfied certain requirements regarding his drug aftercare program in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers can now begin the process of reincorporating Bryant into their offense for the first time since the 2015 postseason. Bryant traveled with the Steelers to their preseason opener at the New York Giants and took part in warmups, but did not play in the game.
Bryant practiced for the first time Sunday and could play Sunday Aug. 20 when the Steelers play host to the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons in their second preseason contest.
"He looked like Martavis," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's a talented athlete. He's in a good condition, but that's just an element of it. Knocking the rust off, getting acclimated to football and the details associated with what requires to win at this level will be a process. It will be fun to watch him work through it."
Bryant doesn't expect it to take him very long to get into football shape.
"I'm in great shape outside of football," Bryant said. "It's different when you have people pulling on you and running with pads. I just have to come out here and run hard every day and I'll be fine."
Eventually, Bryant will be the No. 2 receiver opposite Antonio Brown. If Bryant can pick up where he left off in 2015, the Steelers could have the most dangerous offense in the NFL. Bryant caught 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games during the 2015 season. Over the course of a 16-game season, that would translate to 73 catches for 1,112 yards and nine touchdowns.
Those are impressive numbers for a No. 1 receiver, let alone someone who is drawing only eight targets per game.
With Brown still in his prime and drawing double coverage and the presence of Le'Veon Bell once he signs his franchise tag and reports, it's easy to imagine Bryant putting up huge numbers in 2017.
Notes: Cornerback Artie Burns returned to practice after missing a week with a knee injury. ... Tackle Alejandro Villanueva returned to practice after missing a few days with a concussion. ... Cornerback Cameron Sutton, who was injured on the second day of training camp, practiced for the first time in more than two weeks. He was a limited participant and did not take part in any of the team drills. ... Running back James Conner, who is coming back from a shoulder injury, participated in practice on a limited basis. ... Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was evaluated for a concussion during the preseason opener against the Giants, practiced on a limited basis.