NFL could delay punishment

| Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, 10:54 p.m.

Two Steelers running backs officially were charged Thursday with marijuana possession, but don't expect the NFL to deliver swift action against Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount.

Bell, 22, was driving his black Camaro when police pulled it over Wednesday afternoon on McKnight Road. He also was charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, Ross police Detective Brian Kohlhepp said.

Blount, 27, was seated in the front seat, and female companion Mercedes Dollson, 21, a model from California, was seated in the back seat. They all admitted ownership of a small-to-medium-sized bag — estimated at 20 grams — of marijuana found in the glove compartment, Kohlhepp said.

The misdemeanor charges were filed at District Judge Richard Opiela's office on Perry Highway in West View. The criminal complaints were not available because the office was closed when police announced the charges Thursday afternoon.

Bell, Blount and Dollson, who were released from custody after police questioned them, will be mailed a summons to appear for a preliminary hearing. A hearing date has not been scheduled, according to online court records. No attorney for them is listed.

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. had no comment on the charges, according to his spokesman, Mike Manko.

Bell and Blount played Thursday in the Steelers' preseason game in Philadelphia.

Although they could face up to a four-game suspension by league rules, precedent suggests it will take a while for the NFL to dole out any punishment and that it won't be as severe.

Three times over the past two years, the NFL has waited nearly a year to render punishment to marijuana possession offenders that closely resemble the charges Bell and Blount face.

• Nov. 30, 2012: San Francisco defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs was suspended for one game nine months after being charged with marijuana possession and driving under the influence.

• Aug. 18, 2013: Buffalo linebacker Nigel Bradham was charged with possession of marijuana following a traffic stop. He was suspended for one game 11 months later.

• Nov. 13, 2013: Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe was charged with possession of about 10 grams of marijuana following a traffic stop. It wasn't until last week that league suspended him for the season opener.

With the charge of marijuana possession, along with a DUI, Bell could face a stiffer penalty than Blount barring any prior positive drug tests during their careers. The NFL has a confidentiality rule in which first-time offenders don't have their results made public.

The Steelers could mete out punishment before the NFL acts, as they did with former receiver Santonio Holmes in 2008. The Steelers did not activate Holmes for a game two days after he was charged with marijuana possession.

A source familiar with the relationship between the NFL and NFLPA said a proactive approach by the Steelers would be applauded by the NFL.

“The NFL can say that the punishment is sufficient enough for us to not take any more action and that would be like what happened with Santonio Holmes,” the source said. “The league would not punish the team any more than the team already did by suspending that player.”

Also, Bell and Blount automatically will enter into the league's Intervention Stage of the Substance Abuse Policy for up to 90 days and can be subjected to random drug tests for the duration of their careers. Players not in the Intervention Stage only can be tested once from April through August.

Michael Hasch and Mark Kaboly are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Hasch can be reached at 412-320-7820 or at Kaboly can be reached at or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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