A few days ago, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he wanted running back Le’Veon Bell to sign his franchise tag tender and report to training camp yesterday and that’s certainly understandable. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, however, is a little bit more understanding when it comes to Bell’s situation.
“Yes and no,” Roethlisberger said during an interview on 93.7 The Fan when asked if he’s worried about Bell not yet reporting to the team. “I mean, yes, because he’s one of the best backs and weapons that you could have and the team needs and this and that. And then, no, in a sense that we have to focus on what we have here.
“We’ve got enough young guys that I’ve got to work with and worry about and learn about and all these things, and working with the line and even working with A.B [Antonio Brown]. A.B. and I are trying to get better every day. So, while I’m out at practice, I can’t sit there and worry about what Le’Veon’s doing. Would I like him out there? Absolutely, but I need to worry about myself and getting our guys ready.”
While Roethlisberger doesn’t sound overly concerned just yet about Bell being a very late arrival this year, he does think that the running back needs to allow himself some time before the regular season gets underway to get himself back into football shape.
“Like I said, people asked me earlier about was I worried about his conditioning and I know he’s a very, very physical back, a guy that’s always in great shape and he’s probably working his butt off right now,” Roethlisberger started. “But, so is Martavis [Bryant]. I know it for a fact and Martavis was sucking wind yesterday and he knows it and he laughed about it and he goes, ‘Man, this football thing is different.’ Even when he [Bell] comes back, there’s still a transition, a little bit of a curve of getting in football shape. You can’t simulate football shape on your own.”
Another aspect that Roethlisberger sees potentially as an issue for Bell should he stay away much longer is him needing enough time to get up to speed with the changes of the offense.
“There’s some new things. We’re doing some new things this year that there is an element that I can’t really divulge too much,” Roethlisberger explained about the offense. “But there is an element of the offense that is a big deal that he will need to catch up on pretty quick. I think he’ll be able to, but there is some new stuff. This year is a bigger year than normal. Typically, there’s a handful of things here and there, but this year it is a little bit bigger.”
Being as Bell is essentially holding out and not suspended like he was the last two years, Roethlisberger knows that the team is likely able to get him a copy of the playbook and inform him of any other changes he needs to study up on.
“I guess so and maybe Coach Sax [James Saxon], our running back coach, is doing that,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m not sure. Like I said, I haven’t heard from him so I can’t send him stuff.”
Roethlisberger admitted again that he’s tried to text Bell twice over the course of the last few weeks but hasn’t heard back from the running back outside of him replying to a group text that was sent to him.
“I don’t know if he thought I was going to try to encourage him to come and this and that and the other. I just wanted to reach out to check on him – what can I do to help,” Roethlisberger said about his personal unanswered text to Bell.
For now, all we can do is to continue to wait and see when Bell decides to report for action. Ideally, that will happen almost immediately after the Steelers second preseason game Sunday night against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Steelers annual tune-up preseason game will take place 11 days from today and it would be nice to have Bell receive some very limited action in that contest. At worst, hopefully he reports before the team’s final preseason game in order to allow himself enough time to not only get himself back into football shape, but up to speed with the offensive changes as well.