The NFL revealed yesterday that New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount will be suspended for the opening game of the 2015 season as a result of his actions back in August while he was still a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization.
This should, hopefully, mean that the Steelers will get some answers in the near future about the discipline their own running back, Le’Veon Bell, will be facing as a result of his actions during the same incident.
While he is widely expected to ultimately receive a two-game suspension, based on the new guidelines pertaining to the personal conduct policy, the fact that these new guidelines have never been implemented before means that there is a certain level of unpredictability. And, quite frankly, the league has been known to be inconsistent with its punishments in the past.
As you will no doubt remember, the pair were arrested prior to a preseason game in August after they were caught in possession of marijuana in a vehicle operated by Bell. Because of the latter, Bell faced additional charges, and that is the basis for the belief that he will receive a two-game suspension, rather than a one-game suspension, which would have likely been the case under the previous guidelines.
Should the Steelers somehow come away with just a one-game suspension, they certainly would not complain. If it happens to be harsher than a two-game suspension, however, it would not be surprising if they appealed the punishment to have it reduced, which I suspect that they would win.
Obviously, Bell did not miss any action last season as a result of his arrest. He even transported himself to the preseason game on the day of the arrest and participated in that game. He went on to start all 16 regular season games, although, of course, he suffered an injury in the season finale that caused him to miss the Steelers’ playoff defeat in the Wildcard round.
As we found out yesterday, Bell is an integral piece of this offense, and a big reason that it is successful. In addition to his 11 all-purpose touchdowns, most of which came toward the end of the season, he also set a new franchise record in yards from scrimmage.
We saw in the playoff loss that the Steeler were ill-prepared to full execute their offense without Bell, but that was in part, ironically, due to Blount’s absence, who was later released after exiting the field early in a game in which he only received one snap of playing time. That was not the only issue that led to Blount’s release, but it was the final straw.
The Steelers have signed veteran running back DeAngelo Williams this offseason to serve as Bell’s backup, and will presumably be asked to carry the load for as long as Bell is suspended, whether it is two games or another number. But no doubt the Steelers would be given just a bit of peace of mind if the league would just come out with the discipline already, seven months after the fact.