Much of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason was carried out with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over it, with rumors surfacing early that fourth-year running back Le’Veon Bell had missed drug tests and would be facing a four-game suspension as a result. It was a month or two later when the rumors surfaced again, in greater earnest, proving to be true.
Yesterday was the day that had been awaited, however, with news finally coming down one way or another what sort of discipline, if any, the former All-Pro running back would receive. Instead of facing a four-game suspension, his sentence was reduced by one game, and he was also able to stay in the same stage of the substance abuse program, so that another similar violation would not be a 10-game suspension.
While the reduction of one game is a minor relief, and saves Bell tens of thousands of dollars with the extra game check, the combination of his suspension and Martavis Bryant’s will force the team to be docked over $100,000 in fines due to the accumulation of player violations that they have experienced this offseason.
Bell also apologized in a video that he posted—and later deleted—on social media, in which he claimed not to have used marijuana since December 2014. What is most interesting about that, of course, is the fact that he was arrested a few months prior to that for possession and DUI, which brought about his original three-game suspension in 2015, which was reduced to two games.
Bell said in the video that he missed three drug tests, two of which came in the months immediately following knee surgery, with the third coming in the early morning hours months later. He took full responsibility for the missed tests in comments that seemed earnest enough.
Now that the suspension situation has finally been resolved, we can finally begin to look ahead, both to 2016 and beyond. We now know how long Bell will be out, and we also know, at least based on training camp reps without live contact, that he looks ready to go for the season opener in which he will not be allowed to participate.
It should go without saying that 2016 is a big year for Bell both on the football field and off it. He showed over the course of the past two seasons that he is an elite talent when he is healthy, but the multiple injuries do raise eyebrows.
When it comes to committing big money to a player, however, which will be the case after this season, since he is in the final year of his contract, there is an understandable hesitation toward doing so with players who already have a multiple-incident history of missing games due to suspensions, even if the Steelers are fully comfortable with his health status. It would be wise for him to pay as much attention to what he does off the field as on it from now on.