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Extra Points: Tomlin should have taken a stand

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Updated: 8/21 11:03 pm

(SportsNetwork.com) - Bill Parcells gave his friend Mike Zimmer some ominous advice when the latter got the head coaching job of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Hall of Fame coach, who was once Zimmer's boss in Dallas, told his Padawan that "four or five things happen in pro football every day that you wish wouldn't happen. If you can't handle those, you need to get another job."

One of those "things" hit Mike Tomlin like a Brock Lesnar German suplex on Wednesday when his two top running backs -- Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount -- decided it was a prudent idea to bring some weed along for their ride to the airport in advance of Thursday's dress-rehearsal preseason game with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The two ball carriers and a female friend were arrested after Ross Township Police smelled the scent of marijuana coming from a black Camaro that Bell was driving.

The three jointly admitted to possessing the marijuana and Bell is facing charges of possessing and driving under the influence, while Blount has to deal with those same possession charges and 1,001 jokes based on his last name.

As a practical matter this probably isn't going to impact the 2014 Steelers season because the league will wait for the legal process to play out before handing down any punishment. That will likely push any potential suspension for either back into 2015.

The Steelers should have acted immediately, however, and sent a message to the 88 other players fighting for a spot to represent one of football's most storied franchises.

Forgot about marijuana and where you come down on the legalization argument, this is about letting your teammates down and making bad decisions.

Coaches around the NFL pay a lot of lip service to the idea of leadership, often demanding it from their veteran players. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had a chance to lead by example in a very easy spot -- the preseason -- and reports surfaced that he considered benching both Bell and Blount for Thursday's game, a 31-21 setback to the Eagles.

Tomlin ultimately decided against it, passing off a tokin' suspension (couldn't resist) to the league and leaning on the convoluted logic that missing a preseason game would be a "reward" to players like Bell and Blount, who aren't fighting for a roster spot.

That turned out to be true on one level because the only real punishment Bell received was handed out by Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who lit up the second-year pro in the first quarter with a clean hit that looked so vicious it drew a flag. For the second time in two days, Bell ended up like a young Matthew McConaughey, dazed and confused.

In reality Tomlin got too caught up in the outdated notion that the third preseason game is the only one with any real meaning and he needed to see his presumptive two-man running back committee with Bell handling the heavy lifting as a runner and receiver between the 20s, and Blount as the hammer inside the red zone.

Of course Tomlin didn't need to see anything, he wanted to see something and he sent a bad message to his locker room in order to do it.

To make matters worse, Pittsburgh's starters looked like were in the haze of that Camaro, getting thoroughly dominated in the first half. Philadelphia's No. 1s outgained the Steelers 251-96 while whitewashing them 17-0 in the opening 30 minutes.

The Eagles second-team defense then stopped Ben Roethlisberger and Co. before Mark Sanchez led the Birds' JV offense to another score against Pittsburgh's defensive starters.

Bell carried it eight times for just 18 yards in the contest and Blount was just a little better, toting it six times for 26 yards.

Nothing was accomplished.

Tomlin is supposed to be a teacher but he should have been the one doing the learning on Thursday night. Trading leadership for added repetitions is short- sighted.

The Steelers are renowned for their stability, employing all of three coaches since Chuck Noll arrived in western Pennsylvania in 1969. That continuity has spawned a record six Super Bowl titles with each coach -- Noll, Bill Cowher and Tomlin contributing to the Lombardi Trophy collection.

That legacy has morphed into mediocrity over the past two seasons, however, with Pittsburgh posting a Dallas Cowboys-like 16-16 mark over that span.

Any maybe we now know why -- mediocre coaches who make bad decisions result in average play.

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