Le’Veon Bell hasn’t spent much time reflecting on his Pittsburgh Steelers and NFL career since exiting the league but he sat down for a tell-all interview on the Steel Here podcast with hosts Jersey Jerry and Kevin Adams. And I mean, tell all. The wide-ranging, 90-minute interview covered a variety of topics and may leave fans with more respect for Bell than they had before listening to it.
But among the biggest revelations were Bell’s pre-game routine. Bell said he would routinely smoke weed before Steelers games, chalking it up to something that he and other players around the league did. At the time, the league had a strict anti-marijuana policy, one that later caught up to him. But to him, it was just part of his daily life.
“I got a misconception about me with the whole weed thing,” he said on the Steel Here podcast. “Regardless, I was wrong. Just because man, like I shouldn’t have smoked in the car regardless. But looking back on it, that’s what I did. When I was playing football, I smoked bro. Even before the games, I smoked. And I’ll go out there and run for 150, two touchdowns.”
Bell is hardly the first player to reveal he drank or smoke before games. Former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon says he drank or got high before nearly every game of his NFL career. More recently, former Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens’ DL Derek Wolfe revealed he would microdose mushrooms before some games.
Bell said it was easy to avoid getting caught by the league, knowing it would only test you once a year and when you passed, there was essentially zero risk.
“You get that one drug test,” he said, “you’re good all year round.”
While the league has greatly relaxed its marijuana policy today, not condoning use it but not suspending players for it, Bell and then-teammate LeGarrette Blount were suspended for violating the league’s policy in 2014. The Steelers running backs were on their way to catch a team flight to Philadelphia for a preseason game when they were pulled over by a police officer. They were charged with marijuana possession while Bell was also charged with a DUI. He pled guilty in December of that year.
Bell told the show how he got pulled over.
“The cop was on a motorcycle,” he said. “Me and LeGarrette, we already had smoked. We trying to just air out the car. We’re about to go to the airport so we aren’t trying to smell like [weed]. We’re just trying to air out the car, roll the windows down. But the cop, bro, is on a motorcycle, so we must have drove by. He just must have smelled it.”
Bell didn’t miss time in 2014 but was suspended for the start of the 2015 season. Initially suspended for three games, it was reduced to two following an appeal. Bell made his 2015 debut in Week Three and was productive. He averaged nearly five yards per carry but tore his MCL in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals after being tackled by LB Vontaze Burfict, ending his season.
He would be suspended again to start the 2016 season, claiming it was over a missed drug test now that he was in the NFL’s substance abuse program (where players are constantly tested with tight restrictions). He was initially suspended four games before that was reduced to three. To his credit, Bell owned up and apologized for his mistakes.
It wasn’t until the 2020 CBA that the NFL’s marijuana policy became far more relaxed and isn’t something players are suspended for anymore, essentially the bargaining chip the owners gave up in order to get 17-game seasons. Still, because Bell was arrested and charged with DUI, he may have faced the same punishment today even under the relaxed rules.
While NFL players have done far worse than him, Bell’s career was marred by a series of less-than-ideal choices. Perhaps worst of all was him turning down the chance to stay in Pittsburgh, sitting out the 2018 season and going to New York. That marked the beginning of the end of his career.
Catch the whole interview between Adams, Jerry, and Bell below. It’s certainly worth your time.