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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Second-guessing the Blount decision

There were a lot of people on Twitter Sunday night second-guessing Mike Tomlin's decision to release running back LeGarrette Blount after he walked off the field early following the Steelers' win at Tennessee midway through the season.

But it was more than just that.

Blount exited the field just a few seconds early, as the Steelers were taking a knee to end the game. That, in itself, could have been excused.

But Blount then quickly dressed and went to the team bus, not waiting for Tomlin to speak to the team. And when coach Joey Porter and teammate Mike Mitchell tried to coax him off the bus, he did so grudgingly.

Yes, Blount is a good player. Yes, he might have helped the Steelers in the postseason against Baltimore when Le'Veon Bell was out with a knee injury.

But at what cost?

Nobody in the Steelers' locker room stood up for Blount following his release - even the players he considered and still considers close friends, Bell and Antonio Brown.

And many were glad to see him go, feeling he exhibited selfish behavior.

Think that would have gotten any better had the Steelers kept him around and he continued to see just a play here or there?

Blount considered he and Bell options 1 and 1A. He told me just that while sitting in on the Antonio Brown show five days before the game against the Titans.

Tomlin did not feel the same.

Perhaps Blount could have helped the Steelers in the playoffs. Or perhaps his behavior would have gotten even worse and he would have become a bigger distraction.


Lance Stalnaker said...

A single feature back option is not very effective in todays NFL. Blount had every right to be disappointed and expect more carries. Tomlin not developing another back as talented as Blount was just not good player managements. Should he have walked off with attitude? No, but a lot of other should have and could haves can be said. Should Tomlin have played him more? Yes Should there have been a better option before just releasing a good, proven back? Yes. Would Blount have helped this team down the stretch? Yes. Would the Steelers have made it farther with him? Maybe.

The decision may have been the right one, or maybe not, but playing Bell until the wheels came off with no plan B was a bad move however you look at it.

bruinmann77 said...

move was best for business

RWhetsel said...

Regardless... to me it was total bullshit to see this guy leading the Pats to another super Bowl...

Patrick said...

if you walk out on this team, you will be cut. Whats wrong with that message?

Plus, picture this. They keep him after the tantrum and maybe he doesn't dress the next game. But as the end of the season run went on, he would have basically had to have been given playing time or he would be a big distraction. Based on how Bell played down that run. would you have preferred Blount to take some snaps away or become a distraction? Of course not.

And given how the D played against Balt, I really doubt that he makes the difference in that game.

They had to cut him, and I don't think his performance now bears on that decision.

Dale Lolley said...

Who knows if it was a one-game thing, Lance.

Just because they chose not to take Bell out of a game in which he was rolling along in the fourth quarter doesn't mean they would have done that the next game. Blount had played in the second quarter. But Bell was having a historic game. Tough to take him out of that one.

But because of Blount's reaction, we'll never know.

Anonymous said...

The problem was not releasing Blount, the problem was ignoring the depth behind Bell until he got hurt.

LexingtonLegend said...

Yeah, the problem i had was not finding a better backup plan until he got hurt. With a huge chunk of offensive production coming from Bell it was clear that if he were to get hurt we'd be in trouble. Bell seems pretty durable and looked unstoppable but it only takes one play in football for a guy to go down. You have to have a viable backup plan, especially for such a vital part of the game. No one can replace Bell but you have to have somebody other than an undrafted rookie and a tiny rookie.

Anonymous said...

Still like the decision, and Im glad he's finding the success he thought he'd have here. As for not developing him, I remember just the week prior to the tennessee game two goaline carrier blount failed MISERABLY at, plus he put the colts game in danger with a fumble (ironically he has killed the colts two seasons in a row with the pats). They did develop him, but got that out of him. His game at carolina was amazing, but other than that he was barely better than Harris and Tate, with us that is. Once again, good for him!

Anonymous said...

The Bell injury Blount release was a fiasco for the Steelers.

I don't blame Blount for being mad. The guy just wanted to play but the coaches were too busy running Bell into the ground to give Blount some touches.

And to compound things after this release they didn't sign a veteran back until Bell got hurt weeks later a clear admission that they had no faith in the dept behind him. The guy they signed hadn't played in weeks and promptly fumbled and dropped on pass for an INT.


Lance Stalnaker said...

Like I said Dale, the decision may have been the right one, I just thought it was a knee jerk reaction uncharacteristic of the Steelers. Blount handled the whole situation wrong, no doubt about that. I just think he had the right to expect a 65/35 75/25 etc. split. That seems to be the model that works in the NFL, and one would think it was the expectation of a back like Blount. Bell is great, he's my guy, graduated from GM High right next to the career center I teach at in C-bus OH, but they all need spelled at times. We see guys that carry that much load get hurt more often than not.

Oh, well. I just hope there is a better plan for the RB position next year. It really hurt us in the play-offs. On to the draft.

Anonymous said...

if idiot Haley would have just let Blount play 2-3 series a game and get atleast 5 carries he would have been content. That is what he was promised and why he signed with the Steelers.

Now because of the idiot coached, we lose to BAltimore and help NE possibly win a SB

adamg said...

I still believe if some in the media hadn't made Blount's leaving the field a few seconds before the game ended into a mountain instead of the molehill it was, he'd still be with the team.

When I listened to the comments from players asked about it, it seemed like they hadn't even known or realized he'd gone to the locker room early. The reaction I heard most often was that if Blount didn't want to be in Pgh, then they'd move on.

If some vets, esp those on the offense, didn't like his attitude, then where were they addressing that with him?

Easley said...

I'm not sure which comments Adam remembers, but I remember the emphatic "good riddance" comments the next day by Pouncey (himself, no choir boy). In my life I don't ever remember reading such a scorching, unequivocal dismissal from one teammate about another. That was all the evidence I needed to know there was some serious dysfunction between Blount and his teammates.

A guy walks off the field and abandons his teammates during a game, OF COURSE you cut his ass. Case closed. If the situation had been reversed, and he pulled that in a Pats game, Belichick would've done the same.

Still, he now gets to go the Super Bowl and we have to bitterly watch. Sometimes in life, you can do the right thing, and still feel burned by it in the end. As a parent, that's one of the toughest lessons to teach your kids.

Dale Lolley said...

There's a little revisionist history going on there about the Steelers "running Bell into the ground" before Blount's release.

Blount had 4, 3, 10, 4, 8, 8, 7, 6, 10 and five carries before getting 0 against the Titans. The Steelers were using him to spell Bell quite a bit.
In the game before he did not get a carry, he had five carries for 0 yards. He took a 9-yard loss on a goal-line run from the 1.
Bell, BTW, had 21, 11, 21, 19, 15, 18, 12, 24, 10 and 11 carries when Blount was on the roster. That's hardly "running the legs" off of him.

They chose to ride the hot hand against the Titans WHEN BELL HAD 204 YARDS! He averaged 6.2 yards per carry on 33 carries and only had a long run of 27. That means he was churning a lot of butter. If they had pulled Bell in the fourth quarter of that game, I would have ripped them. He was tearing the Titans up, eight yards at a time.

Lance Stalnaker said...

Joe Greene walked off the field before too, right? So it all depends on the player, we have had plenty of players do knuckleheaded things and not get cut, just sayin...

Lance Stalnaker said...

But what was plan B? When you fail to plan, plan to fail.

Anonymous said...

Dale, no comment on the Steelers not addressing the position when they cut Blount?

kyle said...

I'm glad Dale pointed out the "running him into the ground" nonsense. I guess if Bell had run the ball a few less times, Reggie Nelson wouldn't have thrown himself at Bell's knee right? Bell's injury could have happened week 1 and it had nothing to do with his number of snaps.

What is "addressing the position"? I didn't actually like them bringing in Ben Tate and I wouldn't have liked it if they had done it the day after they cut Blount. They brought up an inexperienced guy from the practice squad. For whatever reason, they weren't comfortable with him being the main back in the playoffs. I'm not sure who you guys think was available at that point in the season. So then you're left with the situation of "we would cut you but we don't have enough depth so you're staying." There were people who wanted him cut after the weed bust but quitting on his teammates is fine because there wasn't enough depth.

If he had gone to the Bears or somewhere like that, none of you would care. Just because he hitched a ride on a team going to the Super Bowl, it suddenly becomes a big deal. If he has a key fumble in the Super Bowl, what then? Would that make it a brilliant tactical move by the Steelers?

adamg said...

I did hear Pouncey's comment and, to me, it sure sounded like he hadn't even realized Blount left the field while the offense was in victory formation. I suppose there are different ways to interpret what was said, but I personally thought it was more along the lines of "you don't want to be here, fine, we're moving on".

To me the whole episode was minor. There are supposed to be leaders in the lockerroom, incl Brown, BR and Pouncey. They should have addressed whatever they felt was wrong or "not the Steeler way" directly with Blount rather than complaining to the coaches.

Anonymous said...

The guy is not a superstar...

Qwikdoc said...

Talk about a knee jerk reaction. The comments on here are laughable. Anyone on here not reliant on a wheelchair could have run through the holes the Patriots' line opened up for Blount yesterday. The Steelers' offensive line isn't in the same league as the Patriots' line. Blount wasn't impressing anybody running behind our line. He was a cancer that has to be cut and it's good that he was. Harris showed good promise in the brief time he was used and I think if given the opportunity, he can be a very capable back up to Bell. Now if they would just end the experiment of giving Archer the ball in the running game.

Dale Lolley said...

"To me, the whole episode was minor."

That might be true. But coupled with the marijuana arrest and what we can only assume were other things since no teammates stood up for him, it could have been the last straw.

They like Josh Harris. Adding him to the roster isn't addressing the position? It's not like they played with just one running back the rest of the season. They CHOSE to use Bell almost exclusively, something they also did in the final game that Blount was on the roster.

McFadden 41 said...

Funny we didn't hear all these voices second guessing after the Pats played the Ravens. I wonder why that is? Is amazing how many of the whiners and haters complain about the lack of discipline on the team, but they wanted to keep Blount for a "minor" infraction. At what point does it just become noise? I'd rather people just say they don't like Tomlin and company no matter what they do so we can drop the pretense. Blount has been a problem child from day one and it's a known fact. So let's stop with the revisionist history.

Anonymous said...

not having a backup to Bell because Blount got cut, that's the injury.

Blount going to the Pats and repeating his playoff success, that's the insult no Steelers fan wants added.

That's all this is.

Zeke R said...

Does/Did A.P. backup expect to see a lot of touches?

If you take the top five running backs in the league, what percentage of touches do the back up's get?

You don't take your number one guy off the field to make your number two guy happy, especially when he is rolling..

Blount was released and Bell to a low hit that cost him the next game, such is football.. Be excited, because the offense is coming back as a complete unit.

Anonymous said...

When you got a rotten fruit. Do you throw it away? or cut off the rotten part?

Its not a question whether Blounts a bay boy or not. We know is a bad boy.

If that rotten apple is not the only apple you got. May be you can throw it away.

Marc said...

That's a real idiot Anon at 9:22 am who complains that it was somehow Haley's job to keep Blount happy and content. What total bulls**t. This isn't PeeWee football where everyone is guaranteed to play and there's a snack at halftime. It's the NFL. These guys are very well-paid professionals, and their job is to perform when called upon. Haley's job is to win, that's all.

Anonymous said...

Jonas Gray ran for 199 yards and 4 TDs against the Colts' D.

Let's not pretend he couldn't have done that again last night. What Blount did was nothing special against a Colts defense with the consistency of Swiss cheese.

John Kang said...

We knew what we were getting when we signed him, and a smarter approach would have been keeping Blount much more involved... even as a closer like he did in Carolina. It's a shame it ended the way it did, and that we gave the Pats more ammunition.

John Kang said...

As for Bell having a historic game against the Titans... at the end of that game, I bet almost any NFL RB could have picked up monster yards. The Titans D was exhausted and overmatched, and our OL was punching holes in them large enough to drive a humvee.

Anonymous Brian said...

I would say adding Josh Harris to the active roster was - just barely - addressing the position.

Blount wouldn't have made much difference v. the Ravens given that the Ravens only punted twice and the Steelers' O-line was dominated by the Baltimore front seven and the QB, relatedly but not totally because of that, played badly.

Anonymous said...

Okay triple H

Anonymous said...

Yeah, promoting Josh Harris was addressing the position. So much that a guy who was signed off the street 5 days before a playoff game started ahead of him.

marc said...

the only reason this is being discussed now is because blount ran well against a poor colts defense, just like gray did earlier in the season. this is less about blount and more about the colts not being able to defend the pats.

I didn't have a problem with them releasing blount. they know better than we ever will about what goes on behind the scenes. however, the steelers were clearly thin behind bell and did not plan well for that contingency.

with that said, bell's absence against the ravens affected the passing game more than the rush game. the steelers o-line didn't play well and there really wasn't much room to run. but #7 really needed that outlet to a dynamic bell to run circles around the raven's LBers.

also, keep in mind that while having bell certainly would have helped, #7 didn't play well and it might not have turned a loss into a win.

Joe Jones said...

Duh! Use a random practice squad guy and sign Ben Tate 24 hours before game day.

Joe Jones said...

Bam Morris prob would have suited up had we called.
Kinda like Kurt Warner said he would have answered the bell had Arizona called.

Joe Jones said...


If they liked Harris so much, why was Ben Tate aka stretch play, getting 50% of the carries?

I thought Tate was just going to be a goaline back in that game, and give Harris the load to make or break.

Dale Lolley said...

Tate played 20 plays. Harris 21. Archer 31.

Harris got nine carries. Tate had five.

And Tate wasn't "signed 24 hours" before the game. He was signed Tuesday because they needed another back, first and foremost, to practice. He showed that he could handle a handful of carries.

I could care less who "started." Cam Thomas "started" a lot this season but played fewer snaps than Keisel.

Could it have been because Tate had a more proven track record?

Anonymous said...

Archer got 31 snaps?!?!?!

My god that's terrible.

I read Ben had all 5 sacks with Archer on the field, thanks Dri/Haley.

Dale Lolley said...

Considering he was on the field as the third-down back and was running pass patterns, that's not surprising. Hard to be sacked on a running play.

DEL jzc said...

I thought they ran Bell too much this year. It's not just about carries anymore (Bell had 290 in 15.5 games). He also had 83 receptions and pass blocked quite a bit.

All those things equal wear and tear on backs these days.

Bell was at about 75% snap counts before Tennessee. Starting in the Tennessee game it was 96%, BYE, 98%, 93%, 100%, 93% and 100% before he got hurt.

The carries don't matter: that is the definition of running your new superstar into the ground. And Tomlin was clearly intent on doing it deep into the playoffs if possible.

I think the whole situation was mismanaged by Tomlin/coaches and it bit them in the ass.

I don't think it really mattered in the end - we weren't going to win it all anyhow (defense was much too weak), but it's still another example of bad decision making from Tombert.

kyle said...


Please explain to me how Reggie Nelson hitting Bell's knee was a result of snap counts?

deljzc said...

I never said it was. I just said Tomlin WAS running him into the ground. There is no debate about that.

Sure, he's young and at 22 years old can hold up to it now. Every 22 year old running back looks great getting 95% snap counts and doing everything on every play. But for how long? What are the long term effects? History says it matters and it seems to matter more in 2010's version of football than in 1970's football. Part of that is because while the average RB's weight has only gone up maybe 5-10 lbs. the average defensive lineman's weight has gone up 40-50 lbs. It's a different game now.

I didn't agree with releasing Blount. Made no sense. We knew he was a malcontent and knucklehead before we signed him. Everyone knows that's who his is. Were we really surprised to find out he wasn't a great locker room presence? Really? What he did was so egregious it required weakening the team's depth chart that much (while we were in a playoff run)? Marshawn Lynch acts like that practically every week in Seattle and do you see Pete Carroll worrying about his effect on the locker room?

A running back pouted about wanted carries. Big woop. Sounds like to me Tomlin got his panties in a bunch and over-reacted to prove he's "large and in charge". Those choir boys Lynch and Blount sure are learning their lessons...

kyle said...

"There is no debate about that"

Well, I'm glad that's settled. I would mention though that the average career length for an NFL running back is under 3 years. For a player like Bell it's more like 6 (making the roster day 1, being a high round pick). What are they saving him for? He got injured in the preseason last year. Should they let him skip that too?

I didn't like the signing of Blount for exactly the reason why he was released. He's a hot-head and a bad teammate. And Marshawn Lynch is a starter. There shouldn't be different standards but there are. If Christine Michael acted like that, Pete might show him the door.

Everything else you said is conjecture based on your pre-existing feelings about Tomlin and Colbert.