Tomlin told reporters after Thursday's preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, a 31-21 loss, that he didn't view sending the pair home as punishment. Tomlin had been criticized for letting them play after both were arrested on Wednesday. Charges were later filed against the running backs. Blount faces a marijuana possession charge and Bell faces a marijuana possession charge and a DUI charge.
Dejan Kovacevic, a Pittsburgh-based sports columnist, asked Tomlin why he played Bell and Blount. "He replied, in essence, he'd rather have them playing then giving them game off.," Kovacevic tweeted.
Tomlin said that their conduct was "obviously detrimental to our efforts," according to Pro Football Talk's Mike Wilkening.
Bell started the game Thursday night, and Blount also played on the first series. Bell rushed nine times for just 23 yards, and Blount added 32 yards on seven carries.
Blount signed a contract with the Steelers as a free agent after playing with the New England Patriots last season. Bell broke the Steelers' rookie record for yards from scrimmage in just 13 games last season.
Pittsburgh opens the regular season with a Week 1 matchup at home against the Cleveland Browns.