PHILADELPHIA – Coach Mike Tomlin's initial response was to give Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount the ball and to keep giving it to them.
Both were in the game into the fourth quarter on Thursday night, at a point in the game at which the Eagles led, 31-7, and at which the Steelers' offensive line consisted of, from left to right, Mike Adams, Chris Hubbard, Wesley Johnson, Will Simmons, and Guy Whimper.
It was an atypical situation for a third preseason game, but one Tomlin deemed appropriate given the circumstances.
"I didn't view it as punishment to send them home, to be quite honest with you, to not play in this preseason game," Tomlin said after the Steelers' 31-21 loss at Lincoln Financial Field. "I'd rather them play more than anticipated than to remove them from the game."
Other than one scramble by backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, Bell and Blount wound up being the only Steelers who carried the ball against the Eagles.
The two running backs played a day after both had been cited for marijuana possession and Bell for DUI.
"I'm sorry for the distraction that I caused my team," Blount said after rushing seven times for 32 yards and catching three passes for 14 yards. "I just want to apologize to my team and the coach and organization for causing that distraction."
With that, Blount was done addressing the events of Wednesday afternoon.
Bell took a similar approach after gaining 23 yards on nine carries and 3 yards on one reception. He began his postgame media session with a statement. "I'm sorry to be a distraction to the team," said Bell, "but I'm only going to answer football questions now."
IN THEIR CORNER: Cornerback Ike Taylor was among the Steelers expressing support for Bell and Blount after the Eagles game.
Photos of the Pittsburgh Steelers Preseason Week 3 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
"We're family," Taylor said. "They did it so they got to deal with it, but us in this locker room, we got to stick together. They got to know if they don't have anybody else, they have us.
"Coach T, the front office, they're going to do what they need to do. You get yourself in trouble like that, there are going to be some consequences. That's not my call."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger likewise didn't want to speculate about potential discipline from either the Steelers or the NFL eventually coming Bell's and Blount's way.
"I don't have a comment on that," Roethlisberger said. "I don't know what's going to happen. I'll let Coach or Mr. Rooney or whoever make the comments about what's going to happen. Obviously, there's a lot that could happen."
Bell and Blount "made a mistake," Roethlisberger continued. "They're good teammates. They'll learn."
CONSERVATIVE APPROACH: The first-team offense didn't run much no-huddle and didn't get much accomplished against the Eagles. Roethlisberger wasn't concerned very much about either development.
"We went down the field no-huddle the first series, did pretty well," he said. "That third down play we had a little (mental error), just a simple mistake. Then we kind of got away from the no-huddle. We wanted to huddle up, do some things."
The play Roethlisberger referenced was a third-and-5 from the Philadelphia 48-yard line, an incompletion that stalled the Steelers' opening possession. The Steelers mostly stayed away from the no-huddle after that.
"We know who we are and what we are," Roethlisberger declared. "We just didn't feel it was necessary. Even on the last series I was in, Coach Haley (offensive coordinator Todd) said, 'Go ahead and go no-huddle.' I said, 'It's not worth putting it out on film right now. We know what we have. Let's just huddle up and call plays.'"
LEARNING CURVE**: First-round pick Ryan Shazier had been all over the field in the Steelers' 19-16 preseason victory over the Bills. Against the Eagles Shazier was noticeable mostly for being beaten for completions by Philadelphia tight ends.
"I just got to be more consistent," Shazier said. "I wasn't being consistent. I had a great game last week. I feel like I didn't do as well this week."
WELCOME BACK, BEARD: Defensive end Cam Heyward was understandably pleased to see defensive end Brett Keisel re-join the team in time to make the trip to Philadelphia.
"I'm very happy," Heyward said. "He's a great team leader, provides more depth for us. He's going to give advice to me and all the other guys. It never hurts to have another guy of his stature in the locker room."