Blount truth: Some glad to see Steelers' running back go
November 18, 2014 1:37 PM
LeGarrette Blount rushed for 266 yards on 65 carries with two touchdowns this season.
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It took LeGarrette Blount three years to wear out his welcome in Tampa Bay. It took one season for that to happen in New England.
The Steelers, who signed Blount to a $3.85 million contract in March, tired of his act in less than eight months.
Tuesday, hours after he walked out on his teammates before the final play of a 27-24 victory Monday night in Tennessee, the Steelers released him, parting ways with one of their biggest offseason free-agent acquisitions.
The Steelers signed Blount to a two-year contract with the idea he would be a strong backup to starting running back Le'Veon Bell. But 11 games into the season and with the Steelers in the midst of a playoff push, they decided he wasn't worth the trouble.
Monday night was not the first time Blount caused headaches for the Steelers. Before he walked off the field in Nashville, upset because he played just one snap in the game, he was cited for possession of marijuana in August and a few weeks before that was involved in a training camp fight that turned ugly when he almost came to blows with assistant coach Joey Porter.
Those were the public incidents. Behind the scenes, there were those in the organization who worried that Blount was a bad influence on Bell, the team's star running back who is in his second NFL season.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told Blount of his decision Tuesday morning, and the players welcomed it when they arrived for a meeting Tuesday afternoon.
"You know what, man, we have a good team," center and team captain Maurkice Pouncey said. "If you don't want to be here, don't be here. At the end of the day, you have your decision to make as a man, and he made it."
Pouncey said Blount's release was "a blessing in disguise."
"We're fine," Pouncey said. "We have our starting running back. It's probably a good thing that it happened. At the end of the day, if it was a cancer, he ended up leaving on his own. That's a blessing for us. At the end of the day, we're good. We don't need him."
Bell carried 33 times for 204 yards Monday night for one of the top five rushing performances in franchise history. With Blount's departure, there is little depth behind Bell.
The Steelers signed Josh Harris, who had been on the practice squad since the beginning of the season, to take Blount's place on the active roster.
None of that was a concern to the players in the locker room. They all echoed Pouncey's sentiments.
"We're grown men and we need to act like grown men," defensive end Cam Heyward said. "If you're not on the field, that shouldn't be a problem. If you're not on the field, you have to make other contributions. We're a team. If you don't want to be a part of the team, don't be a part of the team. We're trying to win, and that's not going to be acceptable."
Star receiver Antonio Brown said the Steelers have a tradition to uphold, and there is a "zero tolerance" policy for selfishness.
"After the win, guys should be excited," Brown said. "Guys should be embracing the thing we got going. It's hard to get wins in the NFL It's a bad situation."
Brown said he considered Blount a friend and spoke to him early Tuesday morning.
"I hate to see him do something like that and have to cause the result," Brown said. "As a competitor, he let his emotions get the best of him. He got outside the grand scheme of things that are really important. What's important is we play as a team; you embrace your teammates, you ride together. When we win, it should be positive."
Blount had dressed and left the locker room when his teammates were still filing in after the victory. Safety Mike Mitchell said he went to the team bus outside LP Field in full uniform and tried to coax Blount to come back into the locker room, but Blount did not return with him.
"I know him," Mitchell said. "I know he's not a selfish guy. His feelings were hurt. I tried to get him to not do that, but he's a grown man."
The decision to release Blount will not cripple the team financially. The Steelers only guaranteed $950,000 of the $3.85 million. The salary-cap hit next season will be less than $500,000. The bigger issue is the experience, or the lack thereof, behind Bell. Dri Archer, the team's third-round pick, has eight carries for 41 yards.
Harris signed July 29 as an undrafted rookie free agent. He played in college at Wake Forest.
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