It was expected by many that, after being handed 15-months probation last month in relation to a July 2014 DUI arrest, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell would be suspended for the opening two weeks of the new NFL season.
From bad to worse?
That news was bad enough for Steelers fans still basking in the glory of Bell's break out year. New reports today however suggest that it could get even worse.
As reported by ProFootballTalk, one particular catch in the new substance-abuse policy means that Le'Veon Bell could in fact be hit with a much tougher four game suspension.
Under the new substance-abuse policy a typical DUI (in which alcohol use was involved) a two-game suspension is the standard. As we all know though, Bell's arrest came in relation to marijuana use and the kicker here is that, under the new terms:
"For violations of law involving other substances of abuse, a first offense exposes the player to a suspension of "up to four" games." - Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk
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With the NFL's new substance-abuse policy having only been in place since late 2014, Le'Veon Bell's situation is something of a test case amongst the league's decision makers.
As such, there is a fear that the Steelers man could see the expected two-game suspension extended to three, or even four games in an effort by the NFL to lay down the law.
With the NFL continuing to have a strong stance against marijuana use, and the drug being illegal in Pennsylvania (where Bell's arrest occurred), it certainly wouldn't be a surprise to see Bell dealt a harsher card than those suspended for an alcohol-related DUI.
Earlier this year, when Bell's 15-month probation was confirmed, Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert admitted the team were preparing for the running back's short absence. With that absence now having the potential to make up a full quarter of the regular-season there is a growing need for the team to find an alternative to the man who racked up 11 touchdowns and over 2,000 combined yards.
Of course, as yet we don't know if it will be two, three, or four games that Bell will miss but regardless, free agency suddenly just became even more important for the Steelers front office.
What do you think Steelers fans? Can a four-game suspension be justified by the NFL? And could Pittsburgh handle being without Bell for 25-percent of the season? Let us know in the comments section below...