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Questions remain for Pittsburgh Steelers' RB Le'Veon Bell

By The Sports Xchange
Questions remain for Pittsburgh Steelers' RB Le'Veon Bell
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) takes the handoff and gains four yards in the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on November 1, 2015. Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) left the game in the second quarter with an injury. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers finally have some clarity with their running back situation when the regular season opens. The NFL reduced Le'Veon Bell's suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy from four games to three.

Bell will miss the first three games against the Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles before returning to home face the Kansas City Chiefs.

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For the Steelers, it's a bit of good news as they prepare to finish the preseason. The Chiefs were a playoff team in 2015 and Bell's presence could be important especially if the Steelers stumble out of the gate without Bell.

But the reduced suspension doesn't necessarily give the Steelers confidence about Bell's long-term future with the team.

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Bell, an All-Pro in 2014, is entering the final year of his rookie contract. This is the second time he has been suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Here's why: Shortly after his suspension was reduced, Bell took to social media to apologize and to try to explain why he missed three drug tests since last fall and earlier this spring.

In doing so he said he hadn't use marijuana since December 2014.

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Bell was placed in the league's drug program in the fall of 2014 after he was pulled over for a DUI and admitted to smoking marijuana a few hours before the Steelers were set to board a flight for a preseason game in Philadelphia.

So Bell openly admitted he was still using drugs for months after he was in the league's substance abuse program, knowing he would face suspension if he tested positive.

Bell might not have smoked marijuana in a year and a half, but his judgment to use in the weeks after he was arrested in a traffic stop should be questioned.

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Bell also tried to explain why he missed multiple tests.

"I got surgery in November of last year; they tried to test me in December and January, and I missed those tests," Bell said. "I couldn't go to the facility to get tested, they couldn't come to me and get tested and I missed those tests. That's on me. I put all the blame on myself.

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"In April, they tried to test me on Saturday morning at 5:37 a.m. I ended up missing the test. I was sleeping and that's on me. I can't sit here and blaming anybody else for missing my test.

"I just want everybody to understand, I never purposely tried to avoid or evade any drug tests. I don't have any problem."

After practice on Saturday, Bell refused to discuss any further the details of his appeal. The only thing he would offer was this: "It's not that hard of a process. I didn't do everything right. I didn't do everything wrong either. I just want to move on from it and keep pushing."

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert put out a statement in which he says the team will continue to support Bell, but the language in it suggests he and others in the front office want Bell to grow up and take responsibility for his situation.

"We are disappointed Le'Veon Bell has been suspended three games to start the 2016 season," Colbert said. "We will continue to support Le'Veon, but we acknowledge this mistake has put the team in an unfortunate position.

"We will continue to work with Le'Veon to help him eliminate distractions in his life so he can reach his full potential as a member of our community as well as a player for the Pittsburgh Steelers."

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NOTES: -C Maurkice Pouncey played in a game for the first time in almost a year Thursday night. Pouncey, who missed last season because of a leg injury, played the first three series of the second preseason game against the Eagles. He previously played in a game last Aug. 23, a preseason contest against the Packers in which he sustained a broken leg. "It was awesome," Pouncey said. "Just to be back out there with the guys." ... -QB Dustin Vaughan broke a bone in his right thumb in Thursday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles and is out indefinitely. The Steelers signed quarterback Bryn Renner to provide some depth behind starters Ben Roethlisberger and backup Landry Jones for the final two preseason games. Bruce Gradkowski injured his hamstring in the first preseason game and is expected to be out for a few more weeks. ... RB Fitzgerald Toussaint is doing his best to hold off Daryl Richardson for the third-string running back job behind Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams. With Bell and Williams sitting out again against the Eagles, Toussaint led the Steelers with 26 yards on eight carries and added two receptions for 16 yards. ... WR Cobi Hamilton is on his fifth NFL team after being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. The Steelers picked him up earlier this month and he's been impressive in the preseason. Hamilton led the Steelers with 44 receiving yards against the Eagles. Barring an injury, there isn't room for Hamilton on the 53-man roster, but he's made a nice impression on the coaching staff in just a few practices and one game.

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