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Steelers want to hold rights to suspend their own, that may not be in the NFL's best interest

It would appear both the NFL and the Steelers want to issue some kind of discipline on Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. The question is how much and when.

Al Bello

To suspend or not to suspend - that isn't the question. The more pressing concern is based on the NFL's acceptance over teams beating the league to the punch and suspending players on their own.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Monday the team has not eliminated the possibility of them suspending either Le'Veon Bell or LeGarrette Blount on their own, apparently outside any punishment the NFL may be inclined to give them. They did the same thing with ex-Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes, suspending him for a Monday Night game at Washington in 2008 after he was arrested with possession of marijuana. Holmes didn't receive further suspension from the league.

It's a different league now. Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the owners fought long and hard to preserve the power given to commissioner Roger Goodell, and punishment for criminal matters (or even non-criminal matters such as allegations made against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that netted a six-game suspension, later reduced to four) came through the league.

It would appear, based on similar cases such as the arrest of Chiefs WR Dwyane Bowe last November for marijuana possession. Bowe was suspended for the first game this season, having gone half of last year without a decision from the league on punishment.

Bowe's marijuana charge was thrown out, instead, having plead guilty to littering and defective equipment. A man with Bowe at the time of his arrest claimed the marijuana was his, and insisted Bowe wasn't aware it was in the car. That defense won't work for Bell, who was charged with possession as well as DUI, considering he admitted to police at the time of his arrest that he had smoked prior to getting in the car.

To whatever degree the NFL, or even the Steelers, will suspend players without having been convicted (even a moron can see Bowe wasn't suspended for littering), the question that has to be addressed is what degree of continuity can the league claim when the Steelers will suspend players on their own while other teams won't. The DUI makes Bell's situation different than Bowe's, but Blount was in the car, he was allowed to leave the scene.

The Steelers, according to Post Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette, if the team decides to discipline Bell and Blount, "they will do so internally, not make it known." It will be difficult for the team to suspend either one without making it known that's what they're doing, so perhaps that hints at a fine, or maybe they have to carry pads or wash the cars of the entire front office.

The reality is, the league takes an incredible amount of heat over the perceived leniency or harshness of the punishments it doles out because there's a massive gap between a one game suspension and a two-game suspension. There's no in-between, outside of fining the player a game check along with missing a game. Tacking on such a disproportionate amount of financial loss (fining Bell, for example, a game check just for the possession piece of the charges against him is approximately 61 times the maximum fine he'd receive for that charge) doesn't seem like the punishment is fitting the crime but they don't really have any other option. It's not like they can just have him run wind sprints or anything.

So if the Steelers decide to take matters into their own hands, the league looks like it takes a back seat to the Steelers' own decisions. That doesn't appear to be something in the league's best interest. It would seem wiser for the Steelers to just hold off, but that sends the message Goodell has more control over the inner-workings of the team than they do.

The rock-and-hard-place spot both sides are in could be the reason Bell and Blount are both playing in Week 1. But if you see either of them covered in suds scrubbing an SUV outside the South Side facility, that may be why.