PITTSBURGH (AP) — The NFL on Friday suspended Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell for the first three games of the season for missing multiple drug tests, a violation of the league's substance abuse policy.
Bell initially faced a four-game suspension, but it was reduced to three games following an appeal to the league. Bell offered an apology in an Instagram post shortly after the suspension was announced, a post he later deleted.
"I'm not the perfect person," Bell said in the post. "I'm not going to say I act like a perfect person. I make mistakes. I want to apologize for everything I put you guys through the last couple years. It's been a frustrating run for you. It's been a frustrating run for me."
This is the second time Bell has faced discipline from the league. He sat out the first two games of the 2015 season as punishment for his arrest in August 2014 on DUI and marijuana possession charges following a traffic stop. Bell was originally suspended three games before it was reduced on appeal.
Bell will be eligible to return to the active roster Sept. 26, before the team's Week 4 home game against Kansas City. He will miss the season opener at Washington, the first home game against Cincinnati and the next game at Philadelphia.
"We are disappointed Le'Veon Bell has been suspended three games to start the 2016 season," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement.
"We will continue to support Le'Veon, but we acknowledge this mistake has put the team in an unfortunate position. We will continue to work with Le'Veon to help him eliminate distractions in his life so he can reach his full potential as a member of our community as well as a player for the Pittsburgh Steelers."
Bell said in the post he never purposefully missed or failed any drug test.
"They tried to test me in December and January and I missed those tests," Bell said. "I couldn't get to the facility and get tested. They couldn't come to me and get tested. That's on me. I put blame on myself."
Bell added that he was supposed to get tested again in April and overslept.
"I ended up missing the test," Bell said. "I was sleeping and that's on me. I can't blame anybody else for missing my test. I just want everybody to understand I never tried to purposefully avoid or evade any test."
The 24-year-old All-Pro running back is entering the final season of his rookie contract.
Bell finished second in the league with 1,361 yards rushing and 2,215 all-purpose rushing and receiving yards in 2014. He rushed for 556 yards and three touchdowns and caught 24 passes for 136 yards in 2015 before tearing the MCL and PCL in his right knee when Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict dragged him to the ground in November.
Bell hasn't played in a preseason game, but has fully participated in training camp practices, showing the ability to take hits and sharply cut on his injured knee. Bell will be able to participate in training camp practices and the final two preseason games before the suspension begins.
Pittsburgh finished third in total yards and fourth in scoring in 2015 while going 11-7 and losing to Denver in the AFC divisional round. The Steelers are already without wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who will miss the entire season after he was suspended in March for a second violation of the league's substance abuse policy.
Veteran DeAngelo Williams will fill in as the team's starting running back with Bell out of the lineup.
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