Le’Veon Bell Not Leaving Himself With Much Time To Get Into Football Shape

So now we know when Le’Veon Bell will show up, which was, I believe, the first question that I asked during training camp. The answer is, evidently, not only after training camp, which is already over, but also after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ final preseason game, on September 1st.

That reporting date will give the running back a little over a week to prepare for the team’s regular season opener against the Cleveland Browns, and one can’t help but wonder what sort of conditioning he will be in. as General Manager Kevin Colbert and others have said, or alluded to, in recent weeks, you can’t really get into football shape by yourself, without playing football.

And being in ‘football shape’ would certainly seem to be especially important not just for the running back position, but for Bell specifically, as nobody in the entire NFL averaged more touches per game than he did a season ago, and his snap percentage in his games played was by far the highest among all players at his position.

One can’t help but wonder he if is exposing himself to the very real risk of getting off to a slow start because he is behind. Presumably, he has been in regular contact with some of his teammates and coaches to at least stay in the loop, and perhaps his chosen reporting date will be enough to get him up to speed with whatever he will need to learn for the offense this season.

But physically, that is another matter. It would not surprise me at all if we see him play fewer snaps per game, with fewer touches, early on in the season as he gets himself into the appropriate shape that would allow him to play as he has over the past four years.

And that could be an issue considering the Steelers’ relative inexperience in the backfield behind him. Rookie James Conner, for all that he might have done well in his preseason debut on Sunday, showing burst to wide open holes, also demonstrated that he is not exactly read for a center role, and the fact that he is still recovering from a shoulder injury is not ideal, either.

The final position at running back is yet to even be determined, but they are at best a change of pace, however ultimately ends up in the role.

Despite how it no doubt sounds, I do not mean to suggest that the Steelers are facing a looming crisis with Bell reporting so late into the offseason process. Chances are, it ultimately will be an insignificant chapter in the story of this season and quickly forgotten.

Still, it is quite possible that it will take him a few games to work his way into his usual form, both in terms of the number of snaps and touches he can handle, and what he does with those touches.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Steelers12

    Which is why I say we should look at Ryan Mathews

  • RickM

    Yes, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that without any pre-season football contact they’ll be a little cautious in his first game and won’t ask him to rush 20-25 times. Fatigue often leads to injuries so it would likely be better to have him on a ‘carries count’. You never know of course, but that seems to make sense.

  • CoaltownSteeler

    I see a slow start and injury riddled season ahead. Definitely not a mature, intelligent, team player type of decision.

  • JT

    Here’s some injury history on Mathews.
    “Mathews has had 20 documented injuries in his NFL career, and has only once played a full 16 games in his 7 seasons. Mathews hasn’t had more than 170 touches in any season since 2013 — but is a regular on the injury report. He’s beyond his prime and won’t be more than a backup in 2017.”
    Pass. For a fanbase that can’t stand Bell not playing 16 games, can’t believe this guy is considered an option.

  • StillersInThe6

    Will there be 15+ articles on here following his 130+ Total Yard Week 1 performance, about how silly it was we spent about 3 articles/hours per day in training camp overreacting to this non-issue??

  • JT

    I wonder what is worse for a players body….having a physical training camp and preseason, then being booted from the team due to suspension. Or being totally fresh, but also green, and working your way in. I’d guess getting your body ready at all is better than none, but it’s not like he’s a player who’s never gone from 0-100 before. I don’t know the answer, just an interesting thought.

  • george

    Over or under 25 touches (runs and passes)? I’m taking the under.

  • CoaltownSteeler

    I sure hope so! Thats some crow that would taste pretty good.

  • CoaltownSteeler

    I’m with you. 15-20 week 1, 18-24 week 2, 25 or so week 3…

  • RickM

    I tend to go by what the football experts (players and coaches) say when it comes to “football conditioning” and it seemed unanimous that his teammates and HC felt training in a gym was not enough. I guess we’ll find out. I can’t help but think of T.J. Watt being gassed the other day. Maybe it was too many reps in his first game, but it’s pretty obvious the physical toll that even pre-season games take. For Le’Veon’s benefit, and obviously the team’s long-term, I hope they don’t ask him to carry a normal workload in Game 1.

  • Steelers12

    Ok but he wouldn’t be getting hurt as much as the back up

  • Axe Skot

    I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t show up in excellent shape and perform at the highest level. Perhaps the only one who works harder would be Brown. Having said that, I wish he was a better teammate outside of the lines.

  • nikgreene

    I find the term ‘football shape’ to be a little too vague to have any value in this conversation. If there is a study or data that shows players who miss training camp are more likely to be unproductive or get injured, I would love to see it.

    Bell has shown he can miss time (from suspensions, injuries, etc.) and still be exceptionally productive. Last year he had 8 total touches in the pre-season, was suspended for the first 3 weeks of the regular season (and excluded from all team activities) and pretty much played the entire game week 4 and totaled 178 yds on 23 touches.

  • Rob

    Bell has barely played during the preseason since he’s been here, with the lisfranc and suspensions. Hasn’t stopped him so far. I have a feeling he’ll be ready to play, and motivated enough to learn whatever new wrinkles have been installed quickly.

  • SteelersGeek4Lyfe

    It does not matter for his conditioning that Leveon is skipping preseason. This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen repeated on this site. For real, can you tell me with a straight face that you are concerned that Leveon won’t be in “football shape”? It’s insane. The dude is a freak, and it’s not like he isn’t training on his own.

  • WilliamSekinger

    If the only risk was Bell getting off to a slow start, I could live with that. But with zero contact before the season starts, he is putting himself in real jeopardy of getting injured. I’m sorry, but you just can’t simulate trying to jump cut while a 250 lb LB suddenly grabs your plant leg. or running downfield and a 200 lb cornerback jumps on your back and pulls you backward.

  • WreckIess

    Great point.

  • WreckIess

    I mean, it’s not like he forgot how to play football. He’ll be fine.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Yeah, because he’s been so injury free his entire career.

  • WreckIess

    No one said he was, but he’s never gotten hurt from not knowing how to take a hit the right way…

  • Paul Rainey

    Bell does not care about being in football shape or his teammates, he only cares about his greedy self. I say rescind the franchise tag on August 31 and see how much someone else is willing to pay his distracting greedy butt. Anyone notice how much time the team has had to spend talking about someone not on the roster?

  • Guillermo Garcia-Gomez

    A better approach would be to run him until the wheels fall off. With your idea, the team wins about 10 games and either gets a 3-4 seed or wild card and loses in the playoffs. At least with keeping him, you theoretically give yourself a chance.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Roosevelt Nix’s plan: “Hopefully he doesn’t get hit”.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Pretty much the only times we’ve written about Le’Veon Bell is when he’s been in the news.

  • Matthew Marczi

    It’s more about training camp than preseason games.

  • Matthew Marczi

    His teammates and coaches and the front office have all expressed that concern. If people who play football say it, I’m not going to call it ridiculous. Running around in shorts doesn’t prepare you to get hit by large men wearing armor 25 times a game.

  • Matthew Marczi

    He’s never had just one padded practice before playing a meaningful game before either.

  • WreckIess

    It can’t be too much different than not practicing for two or three weeks off of a suspension then playing in a game.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I think it’s very different. A few weeks is a far cry from “back in January”. Exactly one padded practice from the AFC Championship game to the 2017 regular season opener. I’m not saying I’m expecting it to be a major problem, but I also don’t think it’s a complete non-factor.

  • Big Joe

    Guess we’ll have to wait to see what happens. I’d like to see him on the field at the start of game one but if he’s not fully ready, then I’d hope the coaches start someone who is.

  • Rob

    Even Conner missed most of training camp before getting about a week of practice and catching right up. I’m not in support of Bell skipping out on TC, and definitely wish he would have shown up sooner, but I equally don’t think his performance will take a step back as a result.

  • WreckIess

    I really don’t see it being an issue. Bell wasn’t getting tackled in those padded practices. At most he might get gassed a little quicker, but Eric Berry did the exact same thing last year and played 100% of the snaps in week one. Bell will be fine.

  • RickM

    Lol, good one.

  • PA2AK_

    Should have put in the time at training camp. Could have stood with Harrison and learned how to not participate in padded practices and avoid scrutiny.

  • PA2AK_

    Exactly. We need to put Ben in some backs on backers so he remembers how to take a hit as well!

  • PA2AK_

    Exhibit A – why you are not a GM

  • Ryan Alderman

    Funny, I was wondering that very same thing.

  • Ryan Alderman

    Which begs the question if their performance doesn’t slip why subject them to possible injury at all?

  • Rob

    I don’t mean to say there’s nothing to be gained from it, bc there definitely is, but I don’t think it leads to particularly poor play, especially at this position.