PHILADELPHIA (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.
One bright spot for the Steelers was backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. He threw a 33-yard TD pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey and a 3-yard TD pass to Martavis Bryant in the fourth quarter.
Foles got Philadelphia’s offense rolling on the second possession. He connected with Jeremy Maclin for 7 yards on third-and-5 and then hit Brent Celek for a 23-yard catch-and-run. A holding call on William Gay kept the drive alive when Foles threw incomplete on third down.
Foles then tossed a screen pass to McCoy on third-and-10 from the Steelers 22. McCoy did the rest, following a takeout block by Todd Herremans into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Foles completed seven straight passes after misfiring on six of his first 10 throws. He was 6 for 6 for 56 yards on the third drive, which ended with Darren Sproles running in from the 1 for a 14-0 lead.
Foles threw his third interception of the preseason when Troy Polamalu picked off a pass in the second quarter. The Pro Bowl MVP quarterback threw only two interceptions on 350 pass attempts last year, including the playoffs. He had 27 TD passes in the regular season, setting an NFL record for best TD/interception ratio.
Matthew Tucker had a pair of 1-yard TD runs for the Eagles in the second half.
“Absolutely. Philadelphia right now is definitely a better team than we are,” Polamalu said. “That’s what we found out today. There’s room for improvement for our team.”
NOTES: Tomlin said LB Sean Spence may have torn the PCL in his right knee. LB Jason Worilds injured his knee. Heyward sprained his ankle. … Gradkowski was 8 of 11 for 105 yards and two TDs. … Steelers K Shaun Suisham missed a 46-yarder wide left. … Nolan Carroll picked off Roethlisberger in the second quarter.
AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_RobMaaddi
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.