August 19, 2017

LATROBE, Pa. (AP) Martavis Bryant can't wait to get back on the field for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The troubled but talented wide receiver will soon have his chance when he plays in his first game in more than 18 months on Sunday when the Steelers host the Atlanta Falcons.

''I just want to get back to what I used to do,'' Bryant said. ''I'm not focused on going outside of what I do as far as running my routes, being a deep threat, running short routes . just running, catching and having fun doing it.''

The NFL suspended Bryant in March 2016 for a second violation of its substance abuse policy. He also opened the 2015 season with a four-game suspension because of multiple violations of the league's substance-abuse policy. Bryant, who is still in the process of being fully reinstated by the league, remains suspended, but is permitted to participate in all preseason activities - including practices and games.

That's enough now for Bryant, who can finally relax and play the game he loves.

''I'm just happy to get back on the field in general,'' Bryant said. ''It's been a whole year since I played football. I'm excited to get back out there and see what I can do.''

Bryant sparkled the last time he was on the field with a personal single-game best of nine receptions for 154 yards and 194 yards from scrimmage during an AFC Divisional loss at Denver. The 2014 fourth-round draft pick averaged 21.1 yards per catch as a rookie and 15.3 in his second season while setting a team record with 14 touchdowns in his first 16 career games.

Bryant acknowledged that he's nervous, but eager for Sunday's comeback. He's also grateful.

''I'm definitely more appreciative,'' Bryant said. ''It has taken a lot of hard work to get back into it. I definitely won't take advantage of it anymore.''

It has been a long road for James Conner, too.

The rookie running back reached the NFL despite tearing the MCL in his right knee and overcoming Hodgkin's lymphoma. Conner, the ACC player of the year at the University of Pittsburgh, also endured a rocky first NFL training camp with the Steelers.

Conner, the Steelers' third-round pick, sprained the AC joint in his shoulder during the first day of padded practices on July 30. He missed the team's first preseason game against the New York Giants and did not work out in a full capacity until the final week of training camp, a span of about two weeks.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Conner will play Sunday.

''I haven't thought about the utilization of him, relative to his circumstance,'' Tomlin said. ''More than anything, I'm going to give him as much as he can handle. I'm going to keep a close eye on the conditioning element of it as we proceed with him.''

That's OK with Conner, who's just interested in playing his first NFL game.

''A while ago, I knew I could play at this level,'' Conner said. ''I have a lot of work to do, but I've always been confident in my skill set.''

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