Steelers seemingly having multiple problems
They have problems on the field on the other side of the ball too, on defense. The Steelers have been counting on a mix of rookies, young players and a few aging veterans to springboard their defense into a reformation period. The Philadelphia Eagles made them look as if much more work - and perhaps talent - needs to take hold.
Philadelphia scored all 31 of its points Thursday night against the first-team defense; even the second-team Eagles offense led by quarterback Mark Sanchez marched for two touchdowns in the third quarter against the top Steelers defense.
"I think everybody's pissed off," defensive end Cam Heyward said. "If you're not pissed off, you shouldn't be on this team. There is a big level of disappointment."
Might Thursday's play against the Eagles be an indication of what is to come for the once-proud Steelers defense this season?
"It better not be or we have a long season ahead of us," Heyward said.
As for halfbacks Bell and Blount and the charges levied against them in suburban Pittsburgh for marijuana possession, the Steelers are not expected to take any drastic action. They will allow the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell determine any disciplinary measures, which often do not occur until the following season. In typical cases such as theirs, Goodell has issued a one-game suspension.
Coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers' hierarchy were upset particularly with the absurdity and stupidity of it: two players caught with marijuana use on their way to catch the team's chartered flight to Philadelphia early in the afternoon.
"They'll be dealt with appropriately," said Tomlin, who played them both in Philadelphia because he said he did not view it as punishment to send them home for a preseason game.
The Steelers cannot afford to lose both, especially Bell, who is expected to be their horse and a big part of their no-huddle offense. They have no other halfbacks with any NFL carries to their credit.
"I'm sorry to be a distraction to the team," is all Bell said.
Meanwhile, details from the criminal complaint against the two players emerged on Friday. According to the complaint obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, when a Ross Township police officer motorcycle cop told Bell that he could be facing a DUI charge after he allegedly admitted smoking the marijuana police found in the car he was driving, the Steelers' running back seemed puzzled.
"I didn't know that you could get a DUI for being high. I smoked two hours ago," the complaint quoted the 22-year-old Bell as saying. "I am not high anymore. I am perfectly fine. Why would I be getting high if I had to get on a plane to make it to my game?"
Officer Sean Stafiej asked Bell where he was headed.
"I have to be on my plane at 3 to be in Philadelphia," Bell said. "I play for the Steelers."
Bell and the 27-year-old Blount, who is in his first season with the team, as well as a 21-year-old woman passenger from California, were cited for misdemeanor possession of 30 or fewer grams of marijuana after Stafiej stopped them after he noticed a "strong odor of marijuana" coming out of the driver's side window when he pulled up next to the Chevrolet Camaro.
Bell also was charged with driving under the influence of marijuana after a blood test at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Passavant, Ross Township Police detective Brian Kohlhepp said. Both charges are misdemeanors.
A preliminary court date has not yet been determined.
Bell initially told the officer there was no marijuana in the car, but when asked if they had smoked any, he replied: "It was about a minute ago," before clarifying that it could have been within the previous two hours.
--Both starting wide receivers caught touchdown passes from Roethlisberger a week ago Saturday. Antonio Brown's covered 76 yards, Markus Wheaton's 16. Wheaton moved up in his second season after Emmanuel Sanders left for Denver this year as a free agent.
"I think he's a hungry guy who's excited about opportunities," Brown said of Wheaton. "I think he'll continue to make strides and continue to develop his game and help us with this fall."
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Bruce Gradkowski vs. Landry Jones for backup quarterback probably ended before it could begin. Jones had his chance to play with the first team Saturday night after Ben Roethlisberger bowed out and laid an egg. He threw his first pass into double coverage and it was intercepted. Later, he was sacked, lost a fumble and it was returned 59 yards to set up a Buffalo touchdown. Jones, their fourth-round draft choice in 2013, could find himself in a fight to keep his roster spot.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--DE Brett Keisel, who signed a two-year contract to return for his 13th season with the Steelers, says he hopes to start at age 36. He started the past nine years on the right side in their defense.
--QB Bruce Gradkowski, who did not look good in the first two preseason games, had his best outing as a Steeler. He completed 8 of 11 passes for 105 yards, two touchdowns and a 142.0 passer rating against the Eagles.
--LB Jason Worilds has a minor knee injury that likely will keep him out of the final preseason game. The team hopes he will be ready for the opener.
--LB Sean Spence, trying to return to play football after a devastating left knee injury two years ago, left Philadelphia with a sprained PCL in his right knee.
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