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Eagles beat Steelers; Blount, Bell play day after arrest

AP

Steelers running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount played in a preseason game one day after they were arrested for marijuana possession.

They combined for 55 yards rushing in Pittsburgh’s 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night.

“I’m sorry to be a distraction to the team but I’m only going to answer football questions now,” Bell said.

Blount also would answer football questions only.

“I just want to apologize to my team, to the coach and the organization for causing that distraction,” he said.

Coach Mike Tomlin defended the decision to play both guys.

“They’ll be dealt with appropriately,” Tomlin said. “I didn’t view it as punishment to send them home. I’d rather them play more than anticipated than to remove them from that game.”

The Steelers (1-2) couldn’t get going against Philadelphia’s first-team defense. Ben Roethlisberger tossed a 27-yard TD pass to Heath Miller in the third quarter against the backups.

Roethlisberger finished 15 of 24 for 157 yards, one TD and one interception. Bell had nine carries for 23 yards and Blount ran seven times for 32 yards. Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier had six tackles after an impressive debut last week against the Bills.

“We’re not worried about it. It’s preseason,” Blount said. “We’re obviously disappointed but we’re going to fix everything, so we’re going to be fine.”

The starting defense allowed 17 points in the first half.

“I’m just ticked,” end Cameron Heyward said. “We all have to look at each other in the mirror. We were unhappy with this. We’re not going to settle for anything less. We know when we put on this jersey it represents a lot. We might not be the same players but we have to step up, make plays and focus.”

Nick Foles threw for 179 yards and one touchdown pass to lead the Eagles (1-2). All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy left the game with a right thumb injury after a 22-yard TD catch gave Philadelphia a 7-0 lead. X-rays on McCoy’s thumb were negative, but he didn’t return. McCoy showed no effects of a toe injury that forced him to miss one practice earlier in the week.

“It’s no big deal,” coach Chip Kelly said.

Manziel unruffled

Berea Ohio AP

On one knee and far from the action, quarterback Johnny Manziel leaned on his orange helmet and watched.

This is his new position.

As Browns starter Brian Hoyer worked with Cleveland’s first-team offense during 11-on-11 drills Thursday, Manziel, for now relegated to the second string, observed from the side. He took mental notes as he waited for his turn.

This rookie has been no sensation. He’s not ready to start.

Meet Johnny Backup.

Failing to make any magic happen in his first two NFL preseason games and unable to close the gap enough to beat out Hoyer, Manziel will begin the season as Cleveland’s No. 2 quarterback, matching his uniform number. It’s not a major surprise given he’s had to learn a complex offense and he entered training camp behind Hoyer.

But Manziel’s inability to leap-frog Hoyer, a journeyman who has made four career starts and is coming off knee surgery, shows the jump from college to pros is gargantuan — even for Johnny Football.

“Obviously I didn’t want this to be the outcome,” Manziel said. “But at the same time, I didn’t necessarily feel I was ready, I felt like there were steps that I needed to take, and I need to take, to get better.”

Manziel has shown flashes, just not enough.

Still, the Browns have seen promise in him, and Manziel’s immense fan base now has members inside Cleveland’s locker room.

“We got arguably the best No. 2 in the NFL,” said wide receiver Nate Burleson. “I’m a Johnny Football fan. Not only was I a fan before he got here, but now he’s family because we play for the same team. I’ll always be in his corner.”

Manziel has improved in recent weeks. He’s got a much better grasp on offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s playbook and its tongue-twisting verbiage; some plays contain 17 words. He’s made better decisions with the ball, and he’s won over some skeptical teammates with a solid work ethic and humble attitude.