Bell, Blount Facing Team Discipline
It might be awhile before the NFL decides on punishment for Steelers running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. Bell and Blount were charged with marijuana possession, and Bell was charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, after Bell's car was pulled over by police in Ross Township, Pennsylvania, last Wednesday.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said "everything's on the table" regarding team discipline, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The first wave of their punishment came when they were put back into the Steelers' preseason game against the Eagles to play among the scrubs in the fourth quarter.
According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, if Bell and Blount are suspended, it won't be the Steelers who decide that. The team is limited in what it can do by the collective bargaining agreement. Any suspension will come from the league, and it likely won't come until next year as the league waits for the legal process to unfold.
Steelers Down to 75
The Steelers' locker room will be a little less crowded when they suit up for Thursday night's game. They released 15 players to reach the NFL-mandated roster limit of 75.
Defensive linemen Brian Arnfelt and Hebron Fangupo, linebacker Vic So'oto and safety Jordan Dangerfield were the most notable cuts. Arnfelt and Fangupo spent time on the 53-man roster last season.
So'oto had a sack and forced a fumble in the Steelers' 19-16 preseason win over the Buffalo Bills on Aug. 16. Dangerfield made six tackles, including five solo tackles, in the Steelers' preseason opener against the New York Giants.
NFL teams must trim their roster to 53 by 4 p.m., Saturday.
Howard Jones, a 24-year-old undrafted rookie from Division II Shepherd University, survived the cutdown to 75 and is trying to usurp Chris Carter for a roster spot at outside linebacker.
Jones recovered three fumbles in the first two preseason games. He returned one for a touchdown and another to the 1-yard line to set up the Steelers' game-winning field goal against the Bills.
Carter, a fifth-round draft pick in 2011, is still searching for his first NFL sack as he enters his fourth season.
At wide receiver, rookie fourth-round draft pick Martavis Bryant, second-year player Justin Brown and free-agent pickup Darrius Heyward-Bey appear to be in a three-way battle for two jobs.
Bryant has five receptions and one touchdown in the preseason, but he's also failed to come up with some catchable balls and fumbled twice in the preseason opener.
Brown, a sixth-round pick last year who spent 2013 on the practice squad, caught three passes in the first two preseason games but came up empty against the Eagles.
Heyward-Bey took a step forward with three catches for 54 yards, including a touchdown catch from Bruce Gradkowski, against the Eagles.
The No. 7 overall draft pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2009, Heyward-Bey has surprised Steelers coach Mike Tomlin with his special teams work. “I’m just as pleased what he’s done on special teams as he has at wide receiver—some things, quite frankly, I didn’t know he had. It’s attractive.” Tomlin told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
A Whole Lot of Landry
Landry Jones' roster spot is in jeopardy, even though he's not really competing against another player.
He has to give the Steelers a reason to carry three quarterbacks.
Jones is expected to get the majority of playing time against the Panthers, although it's not clear if he will start, according to Steel City Insider (subscription required).
The Steelers took Jones in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, but he did not dress for a game last season. He has completed 13 of 26 passes for 127 yards with no touchdowns and an interception this preseason. His passer rating is 48.1. He didn't play against the Eagles.
Keisel to Play
Defensive end Brett Keisel will see his first game action Thursday night. Just when it seemed Keisel's career was over, the Steelers signed him to a two-year, $3 million contract last week, according to Spotrac.
Keisel, who turns 36 next month, suited up but did not play against the Eagles. The Steelers brought him in to shore up a defensive line that has been vulnerable against the run. The sight of No. 99 on the field should give the Heinz Field fans a spark.
How poor was the Steelers' defensive effort against the Eagles? It was so bad that Troy Polamalu ripped into his teammates on the sidelines in a rare emotional outburst.
"It just shows he cares," defensive lineman Cameron Heyward told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "You can appreciate that. I hope everybody appreciates it, because you don't hear from him that often."
The 33-year-old Polamalu, who had an interception in the game, doesn't have many years left. He wants a shot at a third Super Bowl ring. For that to be realistic, the defense has a long way to go...unless Dick LeBeau has kept a lot under wraps.
It might look like Steelers safety Mike Mitchell and Panthers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery switched uniforms.
The Steelers signed Mitchell as a free agent from the Panthers, and the Panthers signed Cotchery from the Steelers.
Mitchell had 3.5 sacks, four interceptions, eight passes defended and two forced fumbles for the Panthers last year after spending the first four years of his career with the Raiders.
Cotchery spent three years with the Steelers, catching 10 touchdown passes last season.