PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh Steelers running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount played in Thursday's preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles after police said they'll be charged with drug possession Wednesday.
The two were pulled over on Wednesday in Ross Township by a motorcycle officer who smelled marijuana coming from their passing automobile, according to police.
“I have no reaction other than the statement that we released (Wednesday). That conduct is detrimental to our efforts. They’ll be dealt with appropriately. I didn’t view it as punishment to send them home, to not play in this preseason game. I rather them play more,” said Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin.
The Eagles beat the Steelers 31-21 Thursday, and Channel 11’s Courtney Brennan was there. She talked to fans about the charges Bell and Blount are expected to face.
“It’s poor judgment on their part. I’m sure they’re both a little immature at this point, but it’s a letdown for the team,” said Steelers fan Terry Daily.
“I think if you do the crime, you do the time. They should be suspended,” said Steelers fan Susan Daily.
“We love that team, and I wouldn’t want my grandkids to hear about it because it’s not setting a good example, but I still think they should play,” said Steelers fan Wendy Bibbs.
Bell, 22, also could be charged with driving under the influence of marijuana when officers receive results of a blood test taken after the stop at UPMC Passavant Hospital, Ross police Detective Brian Kohlhepp said.
Police said an officer was traveling north on McKnight Road when he smelled the odor of marijuana coming from a black Camaro.
The car was pulled over in the Pool City parking lot.
Bell was driving the car and Blount, 27, was in the front passenger seat, police said. Mercedes Dollson, 21, of California, was in the back seat, Channel 11's Alan Jennings reported.
The players and Dollson admitted to possessing a small- to medium-sized bag of marijuana that was found in the glove compartment, police said.
“All three individuals were polite and cooperative with the police investigation,” police said.
The three will be sent a summons to appear before a district judge on the misdemeanor charges, police said.
Pittsburgh radio personality Mark Madden has a strong opinion about this. On Thursday, he told Channel 11's Bill Phillips:
"To provide this type of distraction at this point in the preseason while things have gone so well for the team so far, it defines the word selfish, it also defines the word stupidity. This isn't a pot issue. This is a stupid issue. It's not a a character issue."
Former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis said this:
“You have to understand what’s important. If football and playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers is important, you have to act accordingly and change the things you’re doing because you’re not going to be with the Steelers or in the NFL for long if you continue on that path.”
The team's top two running backs could be disciplined under the NFL's substance-abuse policy, which includes penalties for recreational and performance-enhancing drugs, according to our newspaper exchange partner, TribLive. The policy generally covers players who have failed mandatory drug tests, but players commonly aren't tested for recreational drugs during the season.
Bell, a former Michigan State player, was the Steelers' second-round draft pick in 2013 and rushed for 860 yards and caught 45 passes for 399 yards last season. His 1,259 scrimmage yards were the most in team history for a rookie running back.
While Bell is the Steelers' starter — they project him as a runner capable of 1,000-yard rushing and 50-reception seasons — they signed Blount to a $3.85 million, two-year contract to give them another running back option.
Blount has averaged 4.7 yards per carry during his four-season career, highlighted by a 1,007-yard rookie season with Tampa Bay in 2010. His senior season at Oregon included a two-month ban after he punched a Boise State player after a nationally televised game.
The Bell-Blount combination — along with the addition of running back/wide receiver Dri Archer — is expected to give the Steelers multiple running game options, especially out of the no-huddle look.
“We are aware of the reports and still gathering information,” Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said. “We will have no further comment at this time.”
Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this story.