Even though he is only 23 years old and in his third season in the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bel is mature beyond his professional years. That might seem like a bit much to say when it was still less than a year ago that he was arrested for DUI and possession of marijuana, but when it comes to being a professional athlete, it’s quite true.
After all, he had an accelerated learning curve, having been immediately plugged into the starting lineup as soon as possible. In just 29 career games, Bell has amassed 662 touches, which is a little under 23 touches per game.
For a player that has that high of a workload—a workload that has been on an ascending trajectory, it was important for Bell to learn quickly how to take care of his body, and he credits former Steelers veteran wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery for showing him how to be a professional in that regard during his rookie year.
And now he’s passing on what he’s learned about personal maintenance to some of the less experienced players on the roster, including rookie outside linebacker Bud Dupree, according to Mike Prisuta.
Bell told Prisuta that he keeps the rookie by his side off the field. “[I] put him in the cold tub, make sure he’s doing the hot tub, taking care of his body because he’s going to be a good player for us”, he said.
After talking about how Cotchery helped show him how to break down during the week between games, Bell told Prisuta, “it’s my third year in the league and I’m kinda helping the young guys out a little bit”, singling out second-year running back/wide receiver Dri Archer as one of his teammates who have followed his lead a bit this offseason.
Of course, the Steelers, as every team, have on hand a staff of professionals who advise players on how to take care of their bodies, and they are held in high regard. But sometimes the message gets delivered a bit differently when it’s coming from one of your teammates—especially somebody like Bell, who takes as much of a beating as anybody else.
While the level of competition from the college level to the pros is a steep one, and serves as a boundary that the vast majority of college athletes never successfully cross, the jump from amateur to professional is just as significant, and many trip over this line as well.
Football becomes a year-round thing, where it is literally your job to keep on top of your fitness. It is your duty to get your body right and get on the field, because that is where your paycheck is earned.
The fact that Bell learned so quickly in his career how to keep his body right is, I think, an underrated aspect of his development. And the fact that he is beginning to pass that advice along to his teammates might perhaps be taken as an early sign of a budding leader in the years to come.