The Steelers haven’t had a player face marijuana possession charges since 2008. They now have two. The way they handled that six-year-old incident could create an awkward situation for the 2014 Steelers.
The last time it happened, the Steelers deactivated receiver Santonio Holmes with pay for the next regular-season game. Technically, any discipline imposed by the team infringes on the league’s exclusive jurisdiction under the substance-abuse policy. And while a suspension of up to four games without pay is available for conduct detrimental to the team, the labor deal doesn’t contemplate a paid suspension.
So what will the Steelers do about running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, who were simultaneously charged with marijuana possession after being stopped by a police officer in the Pittsburgh suburb of Ross Township? If the Steelers deactivate both for Week One against the Browns, the Steelers will have a harder time holding serve against a division rival. If they do nothing, they’ll contradict the precedent created by the Holmes situation.
Don’t be shocked if the Steelers let this one play out, since neither Bell (who also was charged with DUI) nor Blount will face discipline from the NFL until the legal case is resolved in a way that reflects responsibility of some sort for the charges they face. With a third person in the car who possibly will contend that the 20 grams of marijuana were hers and not theirs, it’s possible that Blount eventually will escape liability. (With police contending that all three already have admitted to possession of marijuana, that one could be hard to pull off.) While the DUI would remain an issue for Bell, a first offense usually results in a two-game fine; marijuana possession routinely triggers a one-game suspension.
Meanwhile, the police officers in and around Pittsburgh have a reputation for not being overly aggressive when it comes to Steelers players — unless those players were overly aggressive when dealing with the cops. It’ll be interesting to see any video or audio generated by the traffic stop for evidence of cooperation or lack thereof by Bell and Blount.