Steelers cut ties with running back Blount after incident in Tennessee
LeGarrette Blount walked out on his teammates Monday night.
Mike Tomlin told him to keep on walking a few hours later.
The Steelers cut their only true backup running back Tuesday not long after rallying from a double-digit second-half deficit to beat Tennessee and stay within percentage points of the lead in the AFC North heading into their bye week.
Blount, who signed a two-year, $3.85 million free-agent deal in March, left the field for the locker room while the Steelers still were in the huddle before taking a knee on the final play. He was dressed and sitting in a team bus while many of his teammates still were in uniform celebrating the win.
Mike Mitchell — still in uniform — said he pleaded with Blount on the bus to come back into the looker room, but to no avail.
“His feelings were hurt,” Mitchell said.
That wasn't a valid excuse for Tomlin and the Steelers.
“We believe the decision to release LeGarrette is in the best interest of the organization,” Tomlin said in a statement.
Blount was at the Steelers practice facility Tuesday morning for a meeting with Tomlin. By the afternoon, the name plate over his locker was gone, which was fine by some of his teammates.
“If you don't want to be here, don't be here,” center Maurkice Pouncey said. “He had a decision to make as a man, and he made it. ... It's one of the best things he could've done for us.”
Blount was upset with his playing time and how the Steelers didn't follow through on what was presented to him when he signed, but teammates said they sensed no unhappiness with Blount.
“I had a chance to talk to him (Monday night), and you hate to see him do something like that and resort to that,” Antonio Brown said. “He let his emotions get the best of him and got outside the grand scheme of things of what is important.”
Blount averaged 14 snaps through the first nine games before his playing time dropped off significantly the past two weeks. He played seven of the 140 plays the past two games, including only one against the Titans.
After running for 121 yards against Carolina on Sept. 21, Blount had 48 carries in eight games and hadn't gained more than 29 yards in a game. Blount also was mostly taken off kickoff return duties the past two weeks in favor of Markus Wheaton.
Multiple attempts Tuesday to reach Blount's agent, Zeke Sandhu, were unsuccessful.
“If it was a guy who has been here for a while and we know, and it was just a lapse in judgment and he was upset about something, I think it would be easier to look past,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on his weekly radio show on 93.7 FM.
Other weren't so diplomatic.
“We don't have time for this,” Cam Heyward said. “We are grown men, and we need to act like grown men. If that's going to be a problem, you have to go somewhere else.”
By cutting Blount, the Steelers will save $1.5 million next year against the cap but can't retrieve his $950,000 signing bonus.
“It's a bad situation,” Brown said.
Blount was suspended a couple times in college. He was suspended two months (eight games) in 2009 during his senior season at Oregon after punching Boise State's Byron Hout on the field after a season-opening loss.
Blount also was cited in August for marijuana possession after he and Le'Veon Bell were pulled over before a team flight to Philadelphia for a preseason game.
“I actually know him and a lot of people don't know him,” Mitchell said. “He is a competitive guy who wants to be on the field, wants to win games, wants to help us win games.”
With Blount gone, that might become more difficult, especially if Bell goes down with an injury.
Will Johnson is the most seasoned back on the roster, but he has just four carries.
Dri Archer, the team's third-round pick this year, has 41 career yards, and rookie Josh Harris was just activated off the practice squad.
“This is huge to have a chance even to show what you have,” Harris said.