Steelers myth up in smoke
Just when it appeared that Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel had wrapped up the 2014 Spoiled Brat Knucklehead of the Year honor, along comes the Steelers’ version of Cheech and Chong.
Wednesday, about 90 minutes before the Steelers were to fly to Philadelphia for their all-important third preseason game, running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount were arrested and charged for marijuana possession. The vehicle Bell was driving was pulled over because a motorcycle cop could smell marijuana coming from it.
Bell and Blount made it to Philly and played most of a dismal 31-21 loss to the Eagles. In the starters’ final dress rehearsal for the regular season, they combined for a whopping 55 yards of rushing as the Eagles jumped out to a 24-0 lead in the third quarter.
It was a spectacularly flat performance by the Steelers.
There’s a myth about how the Steelers organization always does the right thing — not this time. Head coach Mike Tomlin could have made a huge statement by sending Bell and Blount back to Pittsburgh rather than embarrass the organization by showcasing them on the field.
Tomlin played them for four quarters, suggesting afterward that making them work hard was some form of punishment. Maybe it was.
Maybe Tomlin had no choice because Bell and Blount are the only two experienced NFL backs on the roster. With the regular season starting in two weeks, suspending them ahead of any NFL punishment isn’t an option, no matter what the myth suggests.
Bell and Blount have the right to do something as stupid as get high before a team gathering so long as they are willing to face the consequences.
It’s disturbing to think they believed they pull off such a stunt with no one in authority noticing. What does it say about their disrespect for their coaches and organization? Is it a sign that Tomlin and coordinators Dick LeBeau and Todd Haley don’t have control?
And what does it say about the NFL’s drug-testing policy?
It’s possible the Steelers will look for an experienced back as teams begin reducing their rosters. But will they risk starting the season with two games in five days (Sept. 7 against the Browns, Sept. 11 at Baltimore against the Ravens) with a feature back who doesn’t know the playbook? Of course not.
Manziel’s week began with another unimpressive performance capped by his one-finger salute to taunters on the Washington sideline. By Wednesday, Browns head coach Mike Pettine made the only choice he could in naming Brian Hoyer the starting quarterback for the Steelers game.
Manziel fans aren’t happy, but what choice did Pettine have? He’s on the shortest leash of any NFL head coach thanks to Browns owner Jimmy Haslam firing Rob Chudzinski after one season.
Right now, Hoyer gives the Browns the best chance to avoid an 0-3 start. Manziel is the future.
Tom Williams is a sportswriter at The Vindicator. Write him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter, @Williams_Vindy.