The Pittsburgh Steelers have released running back LeGarrette Blount less than a day after he left the team’s sideline before the completion of the team’s 27-24 comeback win Monday night over Tennessee.
“We believe the decision to release LeGarrette is in the best interest of the organization and wish him the best of luck,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said in the statement.
Many players on the team welcomed the decision Tomlin made and said the team will be better for it. The Steelers signed practice squad running back Josh Harris, an undrafted rookie from Wake Forest, to take Blount’s spot on the active roster.
Blount was upset because he was not used in the game. Starting running back Le’Veon Bell rushed for 204 yards and sparked an 11-point fourth-quarter comeback.
“You know what, man, we have a good team,” said center and team captain Maurkice Pouncey. “If you don’t want to be here, don’t be here. At the end of the day you have your decision to make as a man, and he made it.”
Pouncey said Blount’s release was “a blessing in disguise.”
“We’re fine,” Pouncey said. “We have our starting running back. It’s probably a good thing that it happened. At the end of the day, if it was a cancer, he ended up leaving on his own. That’s a blessing for us. At the end of the day, we’re good. We don’t need him.”
Others echoed Pouncey’s sentiments. Star receiver Antonio Brown said the Steelers have a tradition to uphold and there is a “zero tolerance” policy for selfishness.
“After the win, guys should be excited,” Brown said. “Guys should be embracing the thing we got going. It’s hard to get wins in the NFL. It’s a bad situation.”
Brown said he considered Blount a friend and spoke to him early Tuesday morning.
“I hate to see him do something like that and have to cause the result,” Brown said. “As a competitor, he let his emotions get the best of him. He got outside the grand scheme of things that are really important. What’s important is we play as a team; you embrace your teammates; you ride together. When we win it should be positive.”
Blount was dressed and left the locker room when his teammates were filing in after the victory. Safety Mike Mitchell said he went to the team bus outside LP Field when he was in full uniform and tried to coax Blount to come back into the locker room, but Blount did not return with him.
“I know him,” Mitchell said. “I know he’s not a selfish guy. His feelings were hurt. I tried to get him to not do that, but he’s a grown man.”
Before Blount was released several players voiced their displeasure about the situation.
On his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan, quarterback and team captain Ben Roethlisberger said he did not want to rush to judgment on the situation and wanted to learn more facts. If true, however, he said “it is disturbing.”
When asked if Blount could be forgiven, Roethlisberger said: “Um, I think so. It will be tough if it was out of pure selfishness. … That’s not who the Pittsburgh Steelers are.”
Roethlisberger indicated Tomlin addressed the situation briefly Monday night before the team departed back to Pittsburgh.
“I don’t think it’s something coach will take lightly. He knows how important team is and camaraderie. … It’s a tough situation he’s going to be in, but that’s why he’s our head coach,” Roethlisberger said. “He’ll make the decision that’s best for the team. As players we’ll live with it and make it work whatever it is.”
This is not the first problem Blount has encountered with the Steelers. He was cited along with fellow running back Le’Veon Bell for possession of marijuana in August. Earlier in training camp, when Bell and linebacker Vince Williams got into a fight during a drill, Blount, who was dressed in street clothes, jumped into the fray and tussled with assistant coach Joey Porter. He had to be restrained by Tomlin.
The Steelers were the fourth team Blount has played on in five NFL seasons. He was suspended at the University of Oregon after a highly publicized incident in which he punched a member of Boise State’s team.
Blount signed with the Steelers March 28 after spending the first three seasons of his NFL career in Tampa and last season in New England. With the Steelers, Blount rushed for 266 yards and two touchdowns.