Yesterday was a good day in Steelers Nation, as is the start of OTAs every year. It is the first opportunity that we get to see, or at least hear about, many of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ most prominent players, and we often get to hear directly from many of them during the interview sessions.
While the full-go return of Maurkice Pouncey was perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the day, the interview with running back Le’Veon Bell was the most interesting, considering what he had to say about his past injury history and what he intends to do about it.
Bell, of course, suffered a significant knee injury near the mid-point of the season that resulted in multiple ligament tears and a stint on the injured reserve list. He was limited to only six games in 2015, a fact that also included a two-game suspension that he served to start the year.
But the All-Pro running back didn’t beat around the bush when it comes to how he has gotten injured, while dismissing the “injury-prone” label that gets bandied about a little too liberally. Having suffered two knee injuries that ended his season in back-to-back years, Bell called the causes for these injuries “nasty tackles”, which both happened to come from the Bengals.
But more importantly, he has seen a pattern emerging about how other teams are playing him, particularly teams from within the division, where he believes that certain opponents—perhaps many opponents—have deliberately taken to more aggressive tactics to stop him, not just for one play, but for a longer period.
It’s somewhat amusing that the team’s website conspicuously cut out those comments from Bell’s interview portion, but Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review covered it. Speaking to the media yesterday, the back said that there are “people out here trying to really take people out, so obviously I know that now”.
Bell called himself “ignorant” for not understanding that there are some players looking to hunt down and injure others, which is what he believes he has experienced over the course of his last two seasons, saying that in the game that he suffered his knee injury, “the whole [Bengals] team was really out there trying to like twist my ankles and do little, dirty stuff in between the piles”.
It is in situations such as these that we should be grateful for the on-the-ground media such as Adamski, who can and will report certain comments that the team itself might censor, as the Steelers did rather deliberately in this instance. But I digress.
The point of all this is that Bell believes he understands the game better now, or rather, the mindset of his opponents, and that he will be better for it, telling the media that he is going to take “extra precautions” in terms of getting down early and generally protecting himself.
I don’t believe by any means that such a comment should be construed with the notion that he will play with fear or hesitance, but rather perhaps being less of a risk taker, particularly in run-of-the-mill game situations. It may not be the most macho approach, but it’s certainly the smart one, especially for a player with his talents.