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Joe Starkey

Starkey: Steelers becoming an embarrassment

| Friday, July 22, 2016, 5:51 p.m.
Steelers running back LeVeon Bell works out during the first day of OTAs Tuesday, May 26, 2015 on the South Side.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers running back LeVeon Bell works out during the first day of OTAs Tuesday, May 26, 2015 on the South Side.

At this point, in the wake of the Le'Veon Bowl, er, Bell news, I'm thinking the Steelers should go all in. They should capitalize on their growing reputation as the NFL's hookah haven.

There's money to be made here.

They could start, of course, by emphasizing their nickel and dime defenses (which involve plenty of weed-and-react).

They could follow up by bringing back LeGarrette “Blunt” and using him in a spliff backfield with Bell, assuming the latter returns to football instead of launching a music career (and who could remember his recent single, ironically titled ‘Focus'?).

If they really want to rock the joint, they could bring in Laremy Tunsil, Johnny Manziel and Josh Gordon, change their name to the Pittsburgh Stoners and open a halfway house behind their practice facility on the South Side.

What is going on here?

I'm not going to say the season is up in smoke if Bell joins Martavis Bryant in suspension land, because it would only be four games, and the Steelers would still have Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and a high-quality backup running back in DeAngelo Williams. But any chance this offense had for all-time greatness appears to be spent, all because Bryant and apparently Bell decided to act like dopes and put themselves before the team.

What they have done, essentially, is slap coach Mike Tomlin and their teammates right in the faces. They've slapped Kevin Colbert, the Rooneys and Steelers fans everywhere, too.

And to think, Bell just tweeted the following Thursday: “Selfishness is Poison.”

Listen, if this is all a big mistake — if Bell wins his appeal of a four-game suspension for reportedly missing a drug test — I'll be first in line apologizing. But as ESPN's Dan Graziano said of Bell's appeal, after breaking the news Friday, “It doesn't look like he's likely to have much success with it.”

I should also point out that I came down on the compassionate side when Bryant was suspended for the entire season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

That was before I contacted one of his agents, Brian Fettner, who refused to double down on the notion that Bryant has “a depression issue.” His refusal to confirm the claim, post-suspension, made it sound like it was a pre-suspension plea for leniency from the NFL.

And if Fettner wasn't going to double down, I won't, either. I'm going to assume Bryant likes weed more than football or has a real problem showing up for tests.

As for Bell, the league considers a missed drug test akin to a failed test. And if the report is true, it comes a year after he was suspended essentially for baking and driving — putting other people in danger — on the day of a business trip (the Steelers were traveling to an exhibition game).

A lot of us do really stupid, selfish things when we're young. Bell and Bryant aren't alone on their team. Look at the quarterback's history. But being young isn't an excuse. It just means we do really stupid, selfish things when we're young — and deserve whatever punishment comes our way.

For Bell and Bryant, the punishment doesn't just hurt them. It hurts everyone around them. In the Steelers' case, you wonder how much it's going to hurt a season that holds so much promise.

They can only take so many hits.

Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at

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