STEELERS – WEDNESDAY
By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Second-round pick Le’Veon Bell finally will get a chance to show his coaches, teammates and the Pittsburgh Steelers fans what he can do in a game, as he is expected to be activated for the first time since a right mid-foot sprain in the second preseason game Aug. 19 at Washington.
That game actually was Bell’s first game action, because a left knee injury in training camp sidelined him for the preseason opener against the New York Giants Aug. 10 at Heinz Field. Bell practiced on a full-time basis last Thursday and Friday and is confident that he can go at full speed this week.
“That’s what last week was for, getting back into the swing of playing football, and now it’s time to see how I do in a game,” Bell said Wednesday. “So, I just have to get in there and see what I can do, and I’ll prepare for that this week. … Cutting, that probably would be the hardest thing that I needed to do and bursting.
“So, planting the foot and pushing off to cut and have a burst, those were the biggest things that I needed to make sure that I could do. Last week, I could tell that I was a little bit rusty, running in cleats and stuff, but I’ll be ready to go this week. All I need to do is to get into game shape now and get ready for this game. (So), I’m just ready to get out there.
“I’m tired of just watching all the time and relaxing during a game,” Bell added. “Now, I’ll get to go in there with my teammates, and I’m looking forward to it. … I just have to go out there and do what I can with the reps that I get and try to help this team win. (So), I’m just going to go out there when my number’s called. I’m going to be ready to give my all for my team.”
Through three miserable losses, the Steelers have been led in yards rushing by Felix Jones with 71 yards on 17 carries (4.2 per run). Jonathan Dwyer has 41 yards on 13 carries (3.2). The Steelers do not have a rushing touchdown and rank 31st in the NFL with just the more-pitiful New York Giants the only team ranked lower in the league.
The Steelers average 14 points per game, also 31st (ahead of the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars), and have 155 total yards rushing on 52 attempts (3.0 average) with four fumbles and no scores. It certainly can’t hurt insert Bell into the lineup, whether he starts or plays intermittently.
“I’ve got to be confident in myself that I can help the running game,” Bell said. “A lot of people depend on me, and I depend on them. So, we all depend on each other.”
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on his weekly radio show that the team had no idea if it could depend on Bell, because he basically was an unknown since he has been injured since the preseason. Roethlisberger was asked about Bell Wednesday afternoon.
“Anytime we can get weapons back on offense, we’re excited for it,” Roethlisberger said. “And we’re just excited to see what he can do, because no one knows. We really haven’t seen him in game action. He did some great things in training camp practice and the preseason, but he really didn’t get a lot of snaps even in the preseason.
“So, we’re really excited to see what he’s going to bring. I hope (he can contribute in the passing game as well as the run). He wouldn’t have been brought in here if he wasn’t an all-around back, so I think he’s more than just a guy who’s going to run the ball. I hope we can get him in the screen game and even out in the open field.”
Bell believed that Roethlisberger’s comments were fair, considering how little he’s played so far. But the running back relished the opportunity to show what he can do this week.
“I’m a young guy,” Bell said. “I’m a rookie. I haven’t been here, and this is his first season with me. So, a lot of the guys really don’t know about me and how I can play. So, I want to at least show them all a little bit this week. This game definitely is my first true opportunity to show my teammates what I can do.(And) they haven’t seen me in a full game yet.
“The little bit that I played against Washington and in practice, but they haven’t seen me in a full game, yet. So, this is my chance to show these guys what I’m all about so they can have full confidence in me. … When I get the ball in my hands, I want to make positive plays and do what I can with it to give my teammates and coaches confidence in me.”
Bell did not need a second MRI to determine his readiness for this game. He just based it on how his foot felt when he attempted to run and push off it. One thing is certain, the initial diagnosis that it was a 6-8 week injury was not acceptable to him.
“Once I heard the recovery time the first time, I always had it in the back of my mind that I could come back faster than what they said,” So, I worked hard to get back, and I’m glad to get back. Now, I just have to get ready for the game. I don’t feel like I’m rushing it at all. At the end of the day, I know that I have a long career (ahead), but I feel like I’m ready now.
“I’m ready to help this team win games. (And) my foot hasn’t shown any signs of setbacks, so it feels like it’s ready, and I know I’m ready to go. … I’ve been able to run, cut on it and do whatever I want. They told me at first that it was 6-8 weeks. That was the original thing, but I knew I didn’t want to be out eight weeks or even six weeks. So, I was just grinding to get back to how it was.”
The Steelers are banking that Bell’s presence will be enough to boost their sagging running game.