Trouble, NFL seem to go hand-in-hand

PITTSBURGH – So what does Mike Tomlin do now?

His two top running backs, Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, are facing marijuana possession charges, and Bell could also be charged with DUI.

Tomlin indicated that everything is on the table as far as the team assessing a penalty against the players.

The best guess is that the Steelers will fine both, and they won’t announce any details about it. The organization needs to make its point and move on. It’s doubtful there will be any suspensions issued by the team.

The NFL will have its say, but probably nothing will happen until next year. That’s a byproduct of following the protocol that’s been outlined under the collective bargaining agreement between the players and league.

Bell and Blount could face a suspension from the NFL, but it isn’t an immediate issue.

There’s been some hand-wringing over the arrests and what seems to be an increased level of misbehavior among NFL players. It seems there’s something in the news every week about a player who has run afoul of the law.

The volume may be on the rise, but there have always been miscreants.

In the late 1950s and early ’60s, Steelers quarterback Bobby Layne was renown for his prodigious drinking. Players from that era tell stories of times when Layne would lead rookies to a hangout called Dante’s with the idea of getting them so drunk they couldn’t stand up. It was considered a team-bonding experience, and Layne was praised as a leader.

You’d have to believe there were times when some of the revelers were driving home from those events in an impaired state.

On May 10, 1963, a Steelers defensive lineman named Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb was found dead in a Baltimore apartment, the victim of a heroin overdose.

That was the same year the NFL suspended Green Bay running back Paul Hornung and Alex Karras of the Detroit Lions for betting on games that didn’t involve their teams.

In 1981, Steelers receiver Theo Bell was convicted of simple assault but acquitted of more serious charges in a case brought by a woman who claimed she had been sexually assaulted in the stairwell of a hotel.

There was a Steelers player in the 1970s who often exited the stadium from a remote door because there were process servers waiting for him in the lobby of the team’s offices. It seems there had been disputes about unpaid child support.

In 1973, defensive lineman Ernie Holmes, stressed about an impending divorce, became convinced police were following him as he drove from Texas to Pittsburgh. He wound up firing a weapon at trucks and a police helicopter. Steelers lawyers were able to get him a five-year probationary sentence.

Upon Holmes’ death in 2008, Lynn Swann told The Associated Press, “Ernie was out there. In today’s environment, he probably would have spent a few hours in the commissioners’ office.”

These examples aren’t cited to excuse or minimize what Bell and Blount did, but rather to present some context. Football players who get in trouble make news, but there’s really nothing new about it.

Mehno can be reached at