Will Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell show up at any point during the team’s bye week to sign his franchise tag and start getting ready to play the remainder of the season? Nobody other than Bell and his agent likely knows the answer to that question as of Tuesday morning and it certainly doesn’t sound like any players in the Pittsburgh locker room are concerned about what the running back has up his sleeve as far as a plan goes.
“I had no preconceived notion, I didn’t think or know if he was coming,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday during his weekly interview on 93.7 The Fan when asked if he thought or was expecting Bell to show up on Monday like many previously reports the last few weeks stated he was likely to do. “I just showed up and they were messing with his [Bell’s] locker, they put like a to-go lunch on his chair like he was there and stuff. So, I don’t think anybody really knows and honestly, if the media or people wouldn’t talk about it, we wouldn’t even be thinking about, truthfully.”
After Roethlisberger then quickly admitted that likely no player in the Steelers locker room is really concerned right now about when and if Bell will ultimately show up, he was then asked if he thinks that’s largely because of and a tribute to what fellow running back James Conner has managed to do in the team’s first six games as the team’s starter.
“Of course,” Roethlisberger said. “I mean, if we couldn’t run the ball and we weren’t winning and things like that, then I think it’d be different. But James has been playing unbelievable football. Another hundred-yard game. I’ve heard all kinds of stats this week about James and his first starts, or whatever you want to call it, and he’s playing really good football. There’s room for growth, he knows that, but what he’s doing is helping us win football games and that’s truly all that matters.”
When and if Bell does show up in the coming days, Roethlisberger not only made it clear on Tuesday that it’s highly unlikely the running back would we ready to play in the team’s post bye week home game against the Cleveland Browns, it might even be several more weeks after that before he’s ready to contribute extensively and thus Conner is likely to be the top man in the Steelers backfield for quite a while longer.
“Well, I think the other thing that you have to take into consideration, if you will, is that when he [Bell] comes back, he hasn’t been at a mini camp, an OTA, training camp, a preseason game – think how long it’s been since he’s played an NFL football game. Even if he were to come back on tomorrow or Monday or Wednesday of next week, there’s no way he’s ready to play against the Browns,” Roethlisberger said. “And we’ve changed some things in the playbook, too.
“Even when he comes back, he’s probably three or four weeks away from being football-ready, if you will, and so that’s more time for James to keep working. And even when Le’Veon gets back into football shape and is ready to go, why not use both of them? There’s a lot of teams in the NFL that use multiple backs and keep guys fresh and I think that would be smart for us.”
I wonder if Bell feels that chilliness toward him right now coming out of the Steelers locker room through the mouth of the team’s starting quarterback. If Bell is still in Miami, FL training, he might want to enjoy the heat in the sunshine state a little bit longer because it doesn’t sound like many warm embraces await him upon a potential return to Pittsburgh as of Tuesday.