Steelers cut RB Blount one day after he left field early
PITTSBURGH -- LeGarrette Blount's early exit Monday night cost the volatile running back his job.
The Pittsburgh Steelers cut Blount on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after he jogged off LP Field with the clock still running in a 27-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
Coach Mike Tomlin called the decision to part ways with Blount "in the best interest of the organization" while bringing a swift end to the latest chapter in Blount's increasingly nomadic career.
The Steelers signed Blount to a two-year deal, $3.85-million deal in March to provide the running game with some needed heft. He ran for 266 yards and two scores but saw his playing time diminish in recent weeks. Blount took the field for just one play on Monday night while good friend Le'Veon Bell rushed for a career-high 204 yards and a touchdown.
Blount and Bell celebrated Bell's 5-yard dive early in the fourth quarter that pulled Pittsburgh within a touchdown, posing for a faux selfie on the sideline after the play was upheld on review.
Yet when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lined up for the final snap, Blount headed for the tunnel. He was already dressed when his teammates entered the locker room and sat on the bus while the rest of the Steelers (7-4) soaked in their fourth win in five games.
"I know him, I know he's not a selfish guy, he's a team guy," said safety Mike Mitchell, who tried to coax Blount off the bus. "But it's more so knowing his feelings were hurt. I just tried to get him to not do that but he's a grown man."
One who quickly lost the support of the guys he lined up with every week.
"If you don't want to be here, don't be here," center Maurkice Pouncey said. "At the end of the day you've got your decision to make as a man and he made it."
Pittsburgh announced the move shortly after 1 p.m. and a half-hour later the nameplate over Blount's locker was already gone, though several personal items remained. While Pouncey called Blount "a good teammate" he wasn't exactly broken up about Blount's abrupt departure.
"We've got our star running back," Pouncey said. "That's probably a good thing for our team that happened. At the end of the day if there was someone that was a cancer who ended up leaving on his own, that's a blessing for us."
The Steelers promoted Josh Harris from the practice squad to take Blount's spot, though the reality is Bell will probably carry an even heavier workload as Pittsburgh tries to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
The 22-year-old Bell is the only player in the NFL with more than 950 yards rushing and 450 yards receiving but had forged a bond with Blount over the last nine months, though not always for the better. The two were both cited for marijuana possession -- with Bell also being charged with DUI -- following a traffic stop in August while they were heading to catch a team plane to Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh declined to immediately discipline the pair and they showed flashes of becoming one of the league's most dynamic backfields. Bell and Blount both went over 100 yards rushing in a victory over Carolina in Week 3, a moment that proved to be the high point of Blount's season. He ran five times for zero yards in a loss to the Jets on Nov. 9 and spent Monday night watching Bell have the best day by a Steelers running back in eight years.
Cornerback Ike Taylor believes Blount broke a vital part of football's "code" by his small act of defiance. Defensive end Cam Heyward praised the club for acting quickly rather than letting the situation stew during Pittsburgh's bye week.
"Of course you want everybody to be here but we don't have time for this," Heyward said.
Blount has developed a reputation as one of the league's more talented and tempestuous backs. He was suspended for nearly the entire 2009 season during his senior year at Oregon for punching a Boise State player. He enjoyed moderate success at Tampa Bay and New England, rushing for a club playoff record four touchdowns for the Patriots in a postseason victory over Indianapolis in January.
New England, however, made no move to re-sign him and he ended up in Pittsburgh. Yet while Bell flourished, Blount stagnated, and his frustration finally bubbled over.
"He's got to be smarter in that situation and know how it could be perceived," Mitchell said.