Upon hearing of the legal issues starting running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount on Wednesday afternoon around 1:30 p.m. ET, just before the Pittsburgh Steelers were supposed to travel to Philadelphia for their third NFL preseason game, fan emotions across 'Steeler Nation' ranged from disbelief to shock to anger. According to police reports, Bell and Blount were the subjects of a traffic stop in Ross Township (Pennsylvania) where an officer discovered that Bell, Blount and an unidentified female were in possession of marijuana, a controlled substance. The resulting charges the two players face, and the effect it will have on the Steelers as a team makes the incident even more upsetting for fans.
NFL Media was able to gather information from Detective Brian Kohlhepp of the Ross Township Police Department and receive confirmation that a traffic officer smelled marijuana coming from Bell's black Chevy Camaro and discovered around 20 grams of marijuana in the vehicle. Bell, who was allegedly driving under the influence, was taken to UPMC Passavant to have blood drawn to confirm the fact. While all three were reportedly cooperative with the police and taken into custody, Blount and the unidentified female were released. Kohlhepp told NFL Media that he anticipates that Bell and Blount will receive misdemeanor marijuana possession charges, along with the woman, but as of this time it has not occurred.
While Blount traveled with the team to Philadelphia according to NFL insider Ian Rapoport, Bell was not allowed to join the team.
Burt Lauten, the communications coordinator for the Steelers was relatively tight lipped when contacted. "We are aware of the reports and still gathering information," said Lauten. "We will have no further comment at this time."
In an independent poll after the incident, this journalist was able to discover that over 85 percent of Steelers fans who participated (a total of 250) selected the "extremely disappointed and upset" option. Eight percent of those polled did not think the charges were true or accurate.
"I think it was a setup," Manny Evans said via a Twitter response. "I don't believe it until the Steelers say it's true."
A woman identifying herself as Jennifer from Mt. Lebanon, a Pittsburgh suburb, responded, "Bell and Blount put themselves first, not the team. This kind of activity is what the Rooneys have tried to clear out of the organization. I don't know what the ultimate outcome will be, but the two have put the Steelers in a really tough spot. A day before a preseason game in the NFL? Seriously? It's an absolutely irresponsible thing for two grown men to get into this kind of trouble."
Eric Garner, a self-proclaimed fantasy league 'guru', called the incident a major blow to fantasy football team owners, saying that any time a player is subjected to the NFL's substance abuse policy, their fantasy football stock immediately falls. Over one million people play fantasy football in the United States, with some statistics pointing higher. Some leagues include cash payouts. "The move was stupid on Bell and Blount's part," Garner said via email. "They are not only going to negatively influence team performance for the Steelers overall, but leave the Steelers and fantasy owners with two running backs they don't know if they can trust on and off the field. A bonehead move by two promising players."
It is unclear how the Steelers organization or the NFL will deal with the issue moving forward, but it leaves a big question mark as to who will take over the running back duties, not just against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night, but this upcoming season.