Steelers integrity in question following Thursday's decision

Bryan DeArdo
SB Nation

Was playing Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount more Thursday a justifiable punishment? No. They shouldn't have even been on the field.

Bam Morris was kicked off the Steelers for possession of pot.

Once upon a time, the Steelers kicked a very talented running back off of their squad because he made an illegal decision. Arguably the team's best player months earlier in Super Bowl XXX, the man that played a key role in that team's AFC championship run was gone because the Steelers had standards to uphold.

I miss those days.

That was 1996. In 2014, if you smoke pot, have possession of pot AND operate a vehicle while under the influence of pot AND get arrested for it, you get to play the following night.

Anyone else disgusted by this?

When I typed Pittsburgh Steelers on 9 p.m. on Thursday, August 21 on Google, the first thing I saw is the news that Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount were going to suit up against the Eagles despite being busted for possession of pot the previous day, with Bell being arrested for suspicion of operating a vehicle while being under the influence of pot.

Great public relations for the Steelers right there.

Mike Tomlin was quoted earlier in the day stating that Bell and "let's smoke a" Blount would play Thursday. So much for Tomlin's reputation as a disciplinarian. I'm sure his future speeches about integrity and accountability will be taken to heart by his players. They're probably thinking that if they play as well influential as Bell and Blount are to the team, there won't be any repercussion for poor decisions.

I'm not writing this to jump start a political argument, and I get that smoking pot isn't the worst thing in the world and it is even legal in Colorado. But it's still illegal in Pittsburgh. And even in Colorado, you CANNOT drive under the influence of an illegal substance that includes pot. I could maybe, possibly justify the two playing sparingly if it was just for possession of pot. But when a player is arrested for putting innocent people's lives at risk for driving stoned is unacceptable.

Credit also goes to Steelers management for bringing in Blount, who obviously has made a positive impact on the 22 year old Bell. Blount has a sparkling history of being a model person. Remember when he punched a defenseless opponent in the head following a game back in college? Hey Kevin Colbert, there's probably a reason Blount is playing for his third team in three years. There's a reason the Patriots dumped a guy that scored four touchdowns for them in one playoff game last season. Blount's got character issues. But I guess when you're 8-8 two straight years, trying to win games trumps integrity.

Bell and Blount don't deserve to wear the Black and Gold. That honor is held for men that represented Pittsburgh with the respect the city deserved. Joe Greene, Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis, James Farrior.

Speaking of Bettis, he was the running back Pittsburgh picked up to replace Morris. Safe to say, that turned out pretty well. Bettis was a Hall of Famer on and off the field. Bell and Blount can't hold a candle to him. The Bus is an example of when you do the right thing, good things normally follow.

In the first half Thursday, the entire Steelers team played like they were stoned. They trailed 17-0 at the half, looking listless and undisciplined for the most part. Le'Veon got his bell rung on an incomplete pass in the first quarter that drew a penalty.  I guess the entire team is taking their cue from their running backs. I hope Troy and a few other Steelers other defensive vets get their (verbal and physical) shots on the two backs in training camp this week.

Blount did offer this apology Thursday night following the game: "I'm sorry for the distraction that I caused my team. I just want to apologize to my team and my coach and my organization for causing that distraction."

Tomlin offered this statement on the matter of whether to play of sit his running backs: "I didn't view it as punishment to send them home, to not play in this preseason game," Tomlin said. "I'd rather play them more than anticipated than to remove them from the game, so that's why we took the stance we took tonight. Obviously we've got some things to do regarding the matter moving forward but not a lot to say at this point and time."

Bell said that the team's lackluster effort was not due to any distraction caused by himself and Blount. "What happened yesterday had nothing to do with our performance tonight. We're not going to make an excuse for that performance. We're going to own that."

I hate writing this story. And I don't dislike Bell and Blount at all. I hope they find a way to turn this negative into a positive. I'm pulling for them, just as I would any other members of the Steelers. But I'm not giving them or the Steelers a pass just because they're my team. The Steelers dropped the ball by letting Blount and Bell play. But hey, if that's what the Steelers stand for these days, maybe it is fitting that Blount and Bell wore the Black and Gold Thursday night.

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