Steelers Bell, Blount still set to play tonight against Eagles

PHILADELPHIA -- As of early this afternoon, coach Mike Tomlin planned to play Steelers halfbacks Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount in tonight’s third preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. A source told the Post-Gazette that it would be a “reward” not to play them in an exhibition game.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on Monday that he hoped to play a full half and work on the no-huddle offense against the Eagles. Bell in particular would be an important part of that.

In the longer term, Bell and Blount opened themselves up to more scrutiny by NFL drug testers with their pending charges for marijuana possession but likely will not face a suspension in 2014.

Under the league’s collective bargaining agreement with its Players Association, commissioner Roger Goodell can impose up to a four-game suspension for players charged with illegal use or possession of drugs of abuse other than alcohol. However, in similar cases, Goodell has suspended players for only one game and those did not come until the following season after they were charged.

That discipline is under the assumption that neither Bell nor Blount had any previous positive drug tests which might have put them in a different category; that would have subjected them to random tests and an automatic four-game suspension with a second violation. Such first positive tests are kept confidential by the league, so it cannot be determined if Bell and Blount had any previous positive test.

Bell is in his second season with the Steelers. Blount is with his fourth team in five seasons after he went undrafted in 2010. He signed a two-year, $3.85 million contract with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent from New England this year.

As it is, the fact they will be charged with marijuana use/possession – even if they are not convicted later – subjects both to be placed into the NFL’s drug intervention stage and to career-long random testing throughout the year. Players who have not entered that stage are subject to drug tests just once from April through early August and not thereafter.

Bell, who also faces DUI charges as the driver of the car, will not face additional NFL suspension even if convicted of that charge, but the league could levy an additional fine.

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