Second-year Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell already knows what it’s like to get off to a slow start to a season due to being bogged down by injuries in training camp.
He also understands that rushing yourself back from injury for fear of missing time can simply lead to further injuries.
In his case, a knee problem turned into a foot problem. The knee kept him out of the early preseason games, and then after about five snaps in the one preseason game he did participate in, the foot kept him out of the first three regular season games.
Perhaps that’s why the former second-round pick is choosing to be cautious with his tweaked hamstring that flared up during the first round of practices of training camp.
He sat out the next few days before returning in limited capacity yesterday, participating only in individual drills while sitting out all contact and team drills.
Bell told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Ken Laird yesterday about coming back just to do individual drills while nursing his hamstring that he doesn’t “want it to linger throughout the whole season”.
While he’s close to being ready to ramp up his participation, saying that he hopes he’ll receive more work today, he understands that he needs to be patient, telling Laird that “at the end of the day it’s a long season, I’ll get plenty of that”.
One big advantage facing this injury over the ailments that plagued him in his rookie year, other than the severity of course, is that he’s gained an invaluable amount of experience since then, both in the offense and in being a professional.
Bell is aware of this, and he’s also aware of the responsibility he now has as the veteran and leader of the running back unit. He is now the only running back to have carried the ball in a game for the Steelers on the roster.
But he’s also ready for it. “This year I’m just playing football, I’m not nervous anymore”, he told Laird. “I’m the leader in the group now, really”.
He’s not the only one to have noticed the changes in the now 22-year-old back. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was hesitant to lavish too much praise on the rookie too soon during training camp a year ago, spoke highly of him yesterday.
He told Mike Prisuta that he believes Bell is “gonna be special”, noting that “he’s grown and matured so much” since his rookie season.
Part of that maturity is understanding not just your mind, but your body, and Bell knows he’s not served rushing his way back, even if head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters yesterday that he’s “not worried about him doing too much”.