During his press conference earlier this week, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said that any further in-house punishment due to running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount would not be made known publically a week after a very clear on-field message was sent, keeping the backs on the field well into the fourth quarter.
Tell me if you didn’t happen to notice that 5’8”, 170 pound rookie running back Dri Archer started in the backfield for the Steelers last game, because I’m pretty sure everybody else did, including Bell and Blount.
The one-two punch, of course, was arrested together last week and charged with possession of marijuana on the eve of the team’s third preseason game. Blount was released and boarded the team plane, but Bell was detained longer due to suspicion of DUI, and had to charter his own way to Philadelphia to get to the game.
A week ago, the two combined to log 51 snaps, out of 57 total offensive plays for the Steelers. The starters left after 45 plays.
This week? Archer logged more snaps than both of them combined, 13 to 11. They combined for five carries totaling 15 yards, while Archer got two carries for eight yards.
But before either Bell or Blount got an opportunity to run the ball, Tomlin decided that fullback Will Johnson could use a rep as a ball carrier. On the third play of the game.
Blount only entered the game on the last play of the opening series to attempt to convert a fourth and two, which is an area that the team has not gotten many opportunities to work on during the preseason with their new short-yardage option.
Bell’s first snap? It came at second and 19 from the Steelers’ own one-yard line after Landry Jones took a deer-in-the-headlights sack on first down.
Johnson was in the backfield on first down, but the coaches decided it would be prudent to put a more legitimate defensive threat in the backfield given the pressure of the situation.
Bell finished off that series and played the first few snaps of the next, and that was it for the night. Blount wasn’t too far behind him.
The argument could be made that the Steelers just wanted to see more of Archer in a more traditional role, but I have a hard time believing that these actions weren’t meant for the eyes of Bell and Blount to see.
Tomlin did say that any further punishment would not be publically disclosed, and that presumably means that said punishments won’t be obvious. Let’s hope that’s the case when the regular season rolls around, from a football perspective.