Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is now back with team after spending all of training camp and the preseason working out on his own and according to him on Monday, that holdout was designed to preserve is overall health for the upcoming 2017 season being as he’s effectively now playing on a one-year deal. On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin held a press conference and he talked about Bell’s return to the team.
“Excited to get him back in,” Tomlin said of Bell, who signed his franchise tag tender on Monday. “Much as I had anticipated, he’s in great physical condition. He’s a football-sharp guy, he got back on the moving train pretty good yesterday.”
While Bell is now back with the team and practicing, the Steelers still were granted a two-week roster exemption in order to fully evaluate the running back. With that said, one would think they won’t use the full two weeks and thus activate Bell to the 53-man roster later in the week so that he can be eligible to play in the teams regular season opener against the Cleveland Browns. While that should ultimately be the case, Tomlin wasn’t ready to reveal on Tuesday how much Bell will ultimately be used against the Browns.
“Don’t have a hard and fast plan as I stand here today about his participation, or how much [against Cleveland],” Tomlin said. “We’ll continue to watch his progress throughout the week, not only in terms of what he’s able to execute from a conditioning, or a football conditioning standpoint, but also from a quality of execution standpoint, or details standpoint, and then see the cumulative effects of that work as we proceed.
“He and I have got to do a good job of communicating in the mornings to assess the day befores work and chart out a course for the upcoming day. We will do that and I’m sure we’ll get increased clarity as we get closer to game-action. But I think that could describe a lot of the roles as we stand here today and that’s just the function of this time of year.”
During the teams annual training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Tomlin talked about how there could be consequences for Bell when he finally reported to the team and on Tuesday, he was asked if those consequences wound up being punitive, or just related to things he missed.
“The consequences of his rust, or lack of exposure, will be revealed to him and to us over time,” Tomlin explained. “How much football he can absorb, the amount of detail in his play, his overall level of football conditioning, his ball security, all of those things are consequences, or potential consequences, of time missed. The totality of those things, I’m just not interested in speculating on, because I won’t know until time reveals it. And that’s part of this process. Like I said in Latrobe, there are definite consequences for the time missed. What those consequences are and the extent of them, time will tell him and us.”
As mentioned in a previous post, Bell both fortunately and unfortunately has experience when it comes to playing a first game after missing extended time during past preseasons and the start of regular seasons due to either injury or a suspension. Because of that experience and because he’s perceived as being a smart player and one who can absorb new information quickly, it’s not hard to imagine him not getting quite a bit of playing time against the Browns.
Should, however, Tomlin ultimately decide to lighten Bell’s load against the Browns for whatever reason, he said Tuesday he’s confident that rookie running back James Conner can be called upon to lighten the load.
“I’m comfortable,” Tomlin said Tuesday when asked if he thinks Conner can handle any kind of workload at running back against the Browns.
Coach Tomlin previews Sunday's regular season opener in Cleveland, discusses Le'Veon Bell and more. pic.twitter.com/xGIQBHxpbD
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 5, 2017