Entering a month-long break before training camp, the Steelers have one of the game's premier tailbacks but must try to win in September without Bell, who received 15 months probation in February stemming from a late-summer arrest for marijuana possession and DUI charges with former teammate LaGarrette Blount.
Bell has made clear he wants to "grow up and move forward" from his past marijuana habit. Pouncey said young players need space to realize that growth. He takes an empathetic approach instead of applying pressure to change.
"As the years come on, everybody is going to learn and grow," Pouncey said. "You come into this league as a kid, you’re going to understand that. They expect as soon as you get drafted that you have to act like you’re 40-year-old person and that doesn’t happen.”
Pouncey isn't excusing Bell's mistake, but the expectations in a locker room can differ from those of fans or the NFL, as players are becoming increasingly disenchanted with league commissioner Roger Goodell deciding discipline. Bell is losing four game checks for doing something ex-players say is fairly common, though it's debatable how many get behind a wheel after doing so.
Bell and Blount were arrested Aug. 20 after an officer in a Pittsburgh suburb smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle Bell was driving.
Pouncey believes Bell when he says this was a mistake that won’t happen again.
“Sky’s the limit for him,” Pouncey said. “He has all the talent in the world and all the ability to do everything. We’ll see how things shake out for him.”