By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — For a guy who has said that he never was injured before, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has handled two injuries in the past two weeks pretty well.
Maybe it’s the good news that Bell received. The mid-foot sprain he suffered early against the Washington Redskins Monday night will not need surgery, and there’s still an outside shot that he could play when the Steelers open the regular season against the Tennessee Titans Sept. 8 at Heinz Field.
“He won’t be participating this week, but we are optimistic and encouraged with how it has developed over the last 48-72 hours,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said during a Thursday press conference. “He’s doing some things without discomfort, some rehabilitation-like exercises.”
Tomlin added that he did not have a long-range schedule and actually did not ask the team doctors about anything in that regard. The Steelers, as usual, will treat Bell’s rehabilitation conservatively and go from there. Bell has been pleasantly surprised by his progress, but is taking it easy as well.
“Right now, I’m just walking around on it a little bit, picking up marbles with my toes and just trying to do little things,” Bell said Thursday. “I’m not doing anything too crazy. I’m just trying to let it heal to get back as soon as I can. (But) I can walk on it and put pressure on it.
“And I couldn’t do that when I first hurt it. … I’m trying to keep in good spirits, all things considered, and I’m moving forward. I’m going to try my best to get back as soon as I can, but I really don’t know when I’ll get back. But I’m going to try to get back as fast as I can.”
Early reports, primarily by national media, believed Bell’s injury to need a recovery time from 6-8 weeks. Tomlin wouldn’t have any of that.
“I don’t get caught up in those predictions,” Tomlin said. “Sometimes guys throw lines into the water just to see if something sticks. I don’t know where that came from. That was never expressed by any of our medical experts. That’s just today’s NFL, in terms of what we have to deal with.”
The Steelers obtained a second opinion on Bell’s injury, just to make sure nothing was missed, and it confirmed the original prognosis that surgery was not needed. Tomlin noted that while the injury could be considered a Lizfranc-type, it is not a tear like tight end Matt Spaeth suffered that did require surgery, has him hobbling around on crutches and will need two months to heal.
“The second opinion came back with great news for me, no surgery,” Bell said. “That was a great thing for me, that I can let the foot heal on its own. Keep doing therapy and get back on the field as soon as possible. All the second opinion did was confirm that we didn’t need surgery. It was great news. (Injuries) are part of the game.
“Football is a contact sport, obviously, and you’re going to have your little injuries. But this is just something that I’m going to have to fight through. Everything happens for a reason. So, I don’t question the reason why I got hurt or the reason why I have to go through this. I’m just going to take it day by day, and when I get back on the field I’m going to do whatever I can.
“(And) if my foot can get close to me being able to play on it, then I’m going to play,” Bell added. “But I know it’s a long season, so I want to come back to where I can play without thinking about my foot. And make sure I can go out there and play the way I want to play. I don’t want to be injured, and if I play then it could get worse. I don’t want that, so I want to be healthy.”
Bell said that he went through a range of emotions when he was injured again Monday night, disappointment, frustration, but there was a positive note. While he’s been rehabbing his foot injury, his sore left knee has healed.
“I guess you could say it was a blessing in disguise,” Bell said.
Tomlin said that playing time for Saturday’s game will be based on who’s healthy enough to play, and that option will be held until the last minute.
“We’re going to have an inclusive-type mentality to keep the door open for guys like Isaac Redman, who had a stinger,” Tomlin said. “We’ll leave the light on for him. LaRod Stephens-Howling, who has a minor MCL sprain. He’s participating today, so we’ll see what that participation looks like. David Johnson, of course, practiced (Wednesday).
“We’ll see how his body responds to that work as we continue throughout the course of the week. The same could be said for Cortez Allen and others, Terry Hawthorne, Nick Williams, guys nursing minor, training camp-like, preseason injuries. We’ll give those guys to the 11th hour so they can state a case for themselves to be involved in this thing.”
The Steelers are off Friday and face the Kansas City Chiefs Saturday night at 7:30 at Heinz Field.