By Kim Dunning
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a big decision to make this upcoming year. Two of their all-star players have been consistently having off-the-field problems that could and are resulting in suspensions.
This is not new territory for the Steelers as former wide receivers Mike Wallace and Santonio Holmes both had similar problems. The organization has moved from those two players and have begun going with younger players who can keep themselves out of trouble.
Le’Veon Bell is returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for half of the 2015 season. Now the fourth year player is in his final contract year with the Steelers and could be facing a four game suspension for missing a drug test. This is not how Pittsburgh wants to be going into their first quarter of the season. This is not Bell’s first suspension to start off the season as he was suspended for the first four games last year for the same issue.
Now, with Bell’s contract coming to an end in Pittsburgh, the Steelers organization needs to make a decision as to whether to stay with Bell or move forward with someone else. He can potentially be one of the best running backs in the league and can challenge, Adrian Peterson for the rushing title, if he were to maintain his off-the-field problems.
The thing is, drug tests are not a surprise in the NFL. They are given a calendar that tells them which day they will be tested. To make matters more interesting, Bell is asking for a huge payday to come his next contract and he is arguably worth it. But, in recent years in the NFL, problem players find themselves unemployed or underpaid players. Bell has a great opportunity to be something special, but if he continues to love his other activities more than his love for the game and winning, then he could very well find himself out of a Steeler uniform next season.
Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant has been banned from the NFL for a year for his substance abuse infractions. Bryant also served a suspension last year for the same issue. Bryant is a game-changing wide receiver and a good complement to wide receiver Antonio Brown. His presence on the Steelers will be missed, but it also gives the Steelers an opportunity to find his replacement. Bryant will become an unrestricted free agent in 2018, but he may find himself cut before then.
The Steelers have proven with Wallace and Holmes that they will not degrade the integrity of the organization with problem players. They are likely to take the cap hit and release Bryant before his contract is due. It’s sad to see another, could be great player career cut shorter and not get their due, because they can’t behave during the off-season.
It’s likely that if these problems continue, both Bryant and Bell will be replaced in the near future. The 2017 draft is loaded with running back talent and that should scare Bell into straightening up his act. Even without these two players, the Steelers are still a high-powered offense that can and will light up the scoreboard. The Steelers are still a playoff caliber team and should do just fine, even with Bell and Bryant missing time. The next infraction could not only be a longer suspension but it could cost the all-stars their chance at stellar careers with a great organization.
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