Pittsburgh Steelers running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount were arrested yesterday in Pennsylvania for marijuana possession after they were pulled over by a motorcycle cop who smelled pot coming from their car. Ultimately, the running backs (and one other woman) were found in the car with 20 grams of marijuana. Bell was cited for misdemeanor DUI and possession of marijuana while Blount was cited for misdemeanor possession.
Okay, so that’s the news, but let’s cover what this really means in the context of football…
Bell and Blount, if you were not aware, are the first and second running backs listed on Pittsburgh’s depth chart. In fact, they are really the only running backs on the Steelers roster outside of third-round pick, Dri Archer, from Kent State. Look for yourself… the other guys are Tauren Poole, Miguel Maysonet, Jordan Hall, Josh Harris and Stephen Houston. No offense to those guys, but if anything in the form of a suspension occurs with Bell and/or Blount, the Steelers will be on the lookout for someone new.
In terms of a possible suspension… neither Bell nor Blount have had previous run-ins for substance abuse, which is good for their chances of a short suspension. Blount was suspended for most of his final season at Oregon for punching a Boise State player following the season opener, but I would think that wouldn’t factor into NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision-making process as suspensions relating to substance abuse are outlined by the 2010 Collective Bargaining Agreement, which increases the punishment for repeat offenders. Seeing how that was nearly five years ago for Blount, I feel it wouldn’t factor into a possible suspension. Bell hasn’t been suspended ever, but he received the greater citations with misdemeanor DUI and possession, which could play into something more severe. Again, this is speculation at this point, but considering the past behavior of the NFL towards these occurances, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were staring down a one to two-game suspension when this is finally sorted out.
Now before the comparisons to the “Ray Rice domestic violence fiasco” are made, just remember that there is nothing set in stone for how the NFL handles domestic violence issues. Of course, there should be, which is where the debate around Rice becomes a head-scratcher in why the league doesn’t already have a policy. The CBA, in this case, outlines that Bell and Blount could be suspended up to four-games without pay. That won’t happen unless there is some circumstance that we aren’t aware of or if the league puts a lot of value on Blount’s college suspension and Bell’s two citations (they won’t). Here’s another way to look at the Rice case in relation to this:
The “more games than Ray Rice” tweets are dumb. Players get suspended longer for drugs because it’s a step program. Multiple violations.
— JGoods (@JoeGoodberry) August 21, 2014
As for the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger should be great this season, but that was in large part because of the balance offensively. Without that balance, the Steelers may be forced to rely too heavily on Roethlisberger, despite a suddenly deep and talented receiving core. If Pittsburgh only has to manage without Bell or Blount for a game or two? Pittsburgh will find a way to make it work. Cleveland’s defense is nasty, but for a week, maybe two, Pittsburgh can manage without Bell and/or Blount. You also might be surprised with what they could throw together with only a couple weeks before regular season kickoff.
For what’s already in Pittsburgh, Archer is a talent. I think he could be an elusive, game-changing playmaker with his speed and running ability, much like DeAnthony Thomas should be in Kansas City. That said, Archer is 5’8″ and weighs in at 173 lbs. That isn’t the build of someone who can be a workhorse back. He will most definitely take on a greater role, again if we see suspensions, but Pittsburgh will be looking elsewhere if we see two or more game suspensions… primarily the scraps from those who don’t make other NFL teams.
While this is major news right now and seems to leave the Steelers with very little depth at running back, the ultimate outcome from this could be a game or two. I highly doubt we see up to four, as the CBA allows. If it is only a couple games at most, Pittsburgh will probably look to add a guy who doesn’t make final cuts to just stand in and provide Archer with a compliment, but Pittsburgh’s season isn’t in jeopardy over this.
As a bonus, if I had to venture a guess on who might be added on as some point this preseason, I would say BenJarvus Green-Ellis from Cincinnati. “The Law Firm” is most likely the odd man out between Giovani Bernard and rookie Jeremy Hill, especially if both are relatively healthy through final cuts. Green-Ellis is an expensive third-stringer, so he could be shown the door and if Pittsburgh needs to find someone to carry the load, I see them taking a flier on the perfect stop-gap for their purposes. Tough, reliable… is there anything about Green-Ellis that doesn’t sound like a Pittsburgh runner and the perfect compliment for Archer?