You know who I'm not a very big fan of right now? Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell.
In case you don't know (and there's no way you don't know), Bell is now facing a four-game suspension to start the 2016 regular season for missing a mandatory drug test (maybe even multiple tests) earlier in the offseason.
You remember that drug test, right? It was the one Bell vehemently denied missing when rumors first surfaced about such things five weeks ago.
It's one thing to lie about something when you think there's a pretty good chance you'll get away with it ("my tracks are sufficiently covered.") It's quite another to lie about something knowing there is no possible way you can cover your tracks, and that your boss, your teammates and your fans (many of whom, like yours truly, want to believe you) will soon find out that you're full of crap.
When you lie about something in such a fashion, you're either stupid or high. I'd like to think Bell isn't that dumb, so he was probably a little high, which is why he decided to skip those drug tests in the first place.
When it comes to Bell's current situation, I can't help but think about the troubles Martavis Bryant has already been through in two-plus seasons as a Steelers wide receiver.
Bryant, who had obviously already failed one drug test some time before or during his rookie season, was suspended for the first four weeks of his second year for testing positive for marijuana. And following a season in-which he appeared to mature after being challenged by Ben Roethlisberger right before the playoffs, Bryant subsequently let his quarterback, the rest of his teammates, and his fans down by failing multiple drug tests in the offseason and getting suspended for all of 2016.
Now there is talk of Bryant not being back next year (at least among the fans), especially if Sammie Coates makes strides in his second year and can at least come close to producing like Bryant did, when he caught 76 passes for 1,314 yards and 14 touchdowns over his first two years in the league.
Regardless of talent, Bryant, who, after this season will have missed 20 of a possible 48 games due to drug suspensions, has proven to be unreliable and someone the Steelers may not want to continue a working relationship with in the near future.
My question to you is: How is Bell's situation any different?
This will be Bell's second suspension involving marijuana and/or missed drug tests that would detect the stuff (he was arrested and charged with a DUI following a traffic stop in August of 2014), and, unless he has a wizard of an agent, it will cause the Steelers to be without his services for six games in less than a season-and-a-half.
You know what comes after another failed or missed drug test -- Bryant taught everyone what happens next -- and that's a season without Bell's services.
And when it comes to that side of things, Bell's situation is worse than Bryant's.
For starters, Bell's value to the Steelers is undeniable.
Tomlin basically hand-picked Bell in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft with the intent of making him his starting running back almost immediately. Tomlin babied Bell in his rookie season, sitting him out of his very first preseason game because of a bruised knee. He praised his young running back early in the regular season, even when praise wasn't warranted.
To Bell's credit, he rewarded Tomlin almost immediately by rebounding from some rookie-season injury issues and rushing for 860 yards in just 13 games. You know what he did a season later, when he reported to training camp many pounds lighter and went on to have an All-Pro year by posting 2,215 yards from scrimmage (1,361 yards rushing, 854 yards receiving).
Secondly, Bell evidently realizes his own value, which is why he has a great work-ethic and is always in tremendous shape. And as he told the world in his latest rap song, Bell certainly has what it takes to be the highest-paid running back in the history of the NFL.
Third, you and I know Bell's value to the Steelers. Let's face it, you want a Super Bowl this year, and so do I. But rationalize it all you want, it's going to be a lot tougher to capture a seventh Lombardi while missing one of the top two or three running backs in the NFL for even a quarter of the season.
Back to Bryant. When he came out of Clemson in the fourth round two years ago, one of the reasons for his low draft status had to do with some off-the-field/maturity issues in his youth. And despite his obvious talent during his first two years, Bryant had yet to elevate himself to that of one of the best receivers in the NFL (just one of the best, young receivers).
Bell is already there. He's one of the best players at his position, a young All-Pro looking to cash-in on a payday befitting his status.
And that's the fourth reason Bell's situation is worse than Bryant's.
I know what you might say: "Pot should be legal!" Maybe it should, but do you think the NFL is ever going to stop testing for it? Alcohol is legal, but I'm guessing the quality of football would take a big dip if a bunch of NFL players were drunk during games.
I volunteer these days, and when I'm on-call, I can't drink. And I wouldn't even if I could, because people are counting on me--including fellow volunteers and potential victims.
In Bell's case, he has an entire fan base counting on him, and he's one of the reasons people are so optimistic about 2016 ending in Seventh Heaven.
Yet, at best, he ignored a vital drug test, and it worst, he spit in the face of everyone by getting high.
I know something else you might say: "Everyone makes mistakes when they're young!" That may be true, but since the NFL has yet to make a mandatory entry-level age of 30, talented football players in their early 20s simply need to suck it up and be more responsible than "regular" people their own age.
I'll wrap this up by stating in article-form what I told my brother and cousin via text message: Watch a lot of college football this fall. You might spot Bell's eventual replacement.
Is that kind of harsh? Maybe. But an irresponsible All-Pro running back who may, at any moment, miss or fail a drug test and get himself suspended for an entire year is someone I no longer want to pin my Super Bowl hopes on.
The Steelers front office might soon feel the same way.