Tomlin On Bell: ‘You’re Not Looking At A Finished Product’

While Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin has made it abundantly clear that he is tired of talking about running back Le’Veon Bell and the fact that he missed the entirety of the team’s offseason, reporting only six days in advance of the regular season opener, he still managed to talk about it anyway.

Following Sunday’s victory over the Vikings, during which Bell rushed for just 87 yards on 27 carries and a mere four receiving yards on four receptions, Tomlin was asked about the running back, and after saying that he was “done with” the Bell missing training camp story, he talked about his process of returning to the offense missing so much time.

Much like Martavis, he’s going through a process from time missed”, he said, referring to wide receiver Martavis Bryant, how was suspended all of last season and has had to miss large parts of the offseason as part of that ongoing suspension process.

“Today was a significant step; he was better than a week ago, but again much like Martavis you’re not looking at a finished product”, Tomlin stated about the running backs’ two-week body of work. On the season, he has rushed for 119 yards on 37 carries, averaging 3.2 yards per rush, with 19 yards on seven receptions.

The All-Pro averaged more than that combined yardage per game last season, and nearly for his career. While his lack of productivity is certainly not due solely to his own performance, however, even Tomlin acknowledges that he needs time back in the system before he can play to his full effectiveness.

Shockingly, you need to play football in order to play football.

For his part, Bell said that the offense is “slowly but surely” coming together after producing a total of 40 points over the course of the first two games of the season. “Obviously, we’re not there yet. I think we’ll get better at converting more third downs and obviously not hurting ourselves with penalties”.

He did give his unit props for protecting the ball, having only had one giveaway over the course of the first two weeks, but “other than that, us putting up points, we still have a ways to go”, he said, and of course he would be right.

While he has a couple of gains in the double digits, he has not yet really approached breaking off an explosive play yet, but he said that he feels he is due for them to start coming. It took him a while to find them last season as well, but they found their way to the offense late in the year.

As the season marches on, I have no doubt that the offense will hit its full stride, provided that they are able to take their health and good fortune along the road with them.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Doug Sawyer

    not worth 17 million a year …hell he’s not worth 15 …he should sign the contract the Steelers gave him and shut up and play football

  • Nathanael Dory


  • KaiDex411

    He can’t sign any contracts because he’s playing on the franchise tag – that was locked in back in July…. not to mention the Steelers never negotiate contracts during the season

  • Doug Sawyer

    fully aware…he can state he will sign it at the end of the season …that is if the Steelers feel he is still worth that highest paid at position salary …clearly through 2 games now his 3.2 yards per carry avg no TD’s isn’t worth what the Steelers even offered …and him being rusty or an incomplete package is a self inflicted result that is now hurting the team …which is just another strike against him

  • VaDave

    He didn’t exactly hit the ground running last year either. Come ‘November, he’ll be earring his due. Keep in mind, the OL has more than a few of their own kinks that need worked out, and it’s coming around. You will be seeing some significant progress over the next couple of weeks.

  • dany

    that makes me giddy. Please tell me Ben is not a finished product either!

    Hell, tell us AB is not a finished product and they might as well just hand them the lombardi

  • Conserv_58

    After watching the Giants/Lions game last night it put things we complain about the Steelers in perspective.

    There is one glaring certainty: Be thankful that the Steelers didn’t draft Eli Manning. Two of Eli’s fellow draft members, Phillip Rivers and Ben, are still playing at a high level. Despite what the spin doctors in the media would have us believe, Eli was never on Ben’s or Rivers’ level. Stats don’t begin to show the separation in talent. Eli lacks the personality his brother has to be the kind of leader that inspires others to achieve greatness.

    He’s done. It’s pretty bad when the Giants have a fourth and goal on the Lions two yard line and Manning gets a delay-of-game penalty. In the Giants head coach, Ben McAdoo’s post game press conference, he didn’t mince words when asked about that play. He said it was due to poor quarterback play.

    Given what the Giants are dealing with, I’m not worried about Bell’s slow start because there is no doubt in my mind that his being away from the team all off season is the determining factor.

  • Orlysteel

    When he gets tagged again next year, I bet he won’t be missing the off season.

  • RickM

    I think there’s reason for some concern. Game 1 was a pass for sure with the rustiness. But Minnesota’s D was far better against the pass last year than the run. They gave up 4.2 yards a carry in 2016, putting them in mid-pack. For Bell to get only 3.2 yards a carry was a little unusual for one of the better O-lines and RB’s in the league. The running game has to get better and for me it’s a shared blame issue so far.

  • falconsaftey43

    TEs have been horrible blocking so far. They all need to get their game together.

  • Conserv_58

    Absolutely. What we’ve seen so far got me thinking about something that the players always tell us, “We don’t want to peak too early.” Here we are, two games into the season, with a 2-0 record and the team is not close to running on all cylinders. I’m really liking the pace and direction they are headed in because by the time they get the kinks worked out, the rest of NFL will know they’ve been put on notice.

  • VaDave

    This team is a long way away from peaking. I was listening to “in the Locker Room with Tunch and Wolf and they said Ben threw something like 13 passes in the preseason games, no Bell, a limited Bryant, injuries galore in the secondary, and an unsettled TE situation. Needless to say,

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Right.. and it’s fortunate that the first two games were against easier opponents or that “going thru a process for time missed” could have cost the team wins.

    2-0 tho.. C’mon line..

  • I wouldn’t consider Minn and “easier opponent.” They had a top 5 defense last year and 5 pro bowlers on that unit.

  • WreckIess

    There aren’t too many players that are peaking in week two. I mean, It’s called “mid season form” for a reason. Guys are still improving and getting back used to actual games. It’s hard to replicate it in the preseason and with the way we operate during the preseason, the offense is probably never going to hit the regular season in stride. They sacrifice cohension for health and we’re seeing a bit of that on the field with the skill positions although, I will say I have no idea what the OL’s problem has been.

  • falconsaftey43

    Contract talk is for the offseason, there would be no point in him talking about that now. Focus is on the entire offense getting better. The OL and TE blocking in front of him hasn’t been poor. They all need to kick it into gear.

    RBs are going to have games where they are under 4.0 ypc. in 2014 he had 7. In 2016 he had 4. He hasn’t had a great game the first 2 weeks, but I have no doubt there will be multiple times this season where he makes a huge difference.

    They do need to get him going in the passing game, haven’t seen many option routes designed to get him the ball, has been heavily screen based and the timing/blocking hasn’t been good there.

  • cencalsteeler

    Shouldn’t the fans only be charged preseason prices for their game tickets until we see “finished products”?

  • NCSteel

    I’m a lttle confused.
    Bell was suspended for four games, came back and looked like gangbusters right out of the gate so is it him this year, is it the blocking, have they not gelled together yet ?
    I agree that this will come together as the weeks pass but it does give one pause to ponder

  • RickM

    Yes, he rattled off 144 yards for an 8-yard average in his first 2016 game, but he had the benefit of a lengthy training camp and pre-season. So there were no timing issues either in his running or reception game. This year he came back after an operation and with over 7 months away from a football field.

  • cencalsteeler

    I agree with Rick, but it sure seems he’s doing quite a bit of extracurricular activities these days that might be causing him to lack focus.

  • popsiclesticks

    Rivers has been underrated for so long. Particularly by Steelers fans, IMO.

  • popsiclesticks

    Yeah, they are a stacked defense that was done in by their OL last year. Their OL is much better now. They are going to get many more wins this year, IMO.

  • popsiclesticks

    The next few games after that were quite pedestrian. The OL struggled at the start of last year too, before gelling into a great unit by the end of the year.

    Heck, Denver made Dallas’ OL look bad on Sunday too – and I’m sure they will be dominant again as the year progresses.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Losing Bradford really changes that slope tho. They were going to struggle all day with field position and the defense was on the field a lot.

  • francesco

    My concern for LBell is his lack of thrust and speed. Tomlin should make him run around the track a few times. Sprint running and not leisurely jogging.

  • Bradford doesn’t plat defense.

    I don’t get it. No body wants to give any credit to the Minn defense. Last year the were the number 3 total defense and 6th in scoring defense allowing 19.2 points per game. I know last year was last year but still, we scored 7 points more than their average last year.

    This defense we went up against last week was no slouch.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Look at week 1 and the Houston defense, considered one of the best, was torched because the QB was awful, sacked a ton and intercepted. He kept the D in a terrible position until he was pulled. Same thing..

  • That just happen to be how the game unfolded. That doesn’t make them an “easier opponent.” That doesn’t mean teams should take them lightly moving forward.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    If they don’t have their starting QB, it absolutely means exactly that, yes.

  • That’s the kind of attitude that leads to losses against “lesser” opponents.

  • NCSteel

    I knew someone would say that as I was posting it. You’re right Rick, he’s flat out stone cold this year.
    I just wonder if there is more to it than just him.
    I certainly hope not but reading about Alejandro’s sickness, the season still being young, maybe it’s all of it. I wish coach would have them ready out of the box each year but I also do not complain when they start peaking right after Thanksgiving. Let’s hope we see a little closer to a vintage performance this week. I am uncomfortable with the team being 7.5 favorites on the road but thats another story.

  • RickM

    It’s a little early for us to have a good read as you and many others have pointed out. The next several games will tell us a lot more as the valid ‘he’s not fully ready’ reason has expired. Like you, I hope we start seeing the runs we’ve grown to expect.

  • RickM

    Hadn’t even thought of that. But I don’t follow his activities off the field.

  • Mr jack

    The season is still young,I’m not worried about bell I know what he can do and will do.

  • Leek

    Don’t forget that he still participated in training camp and he played in the preseason last year. So Bell was able to develop whatever chemistry needed with the o-line prior to serving his suspension.

  • falconsaftey43

    Per Alex’s reporting, Bell got 29 carries in training camp last year. He had 3 carries in preseason last year. He’s up to 37 this year already through 2 games. You can complain all you want about is performance going forward, but can we please drop the narrative that it’s due to him not being in training camp? He’s already got just as much work in with the OL, and they’ve all come at full speed. Whatever, if any, “rust” he had to knock off from not working with the team in TC has come and gone at this point.

  • Conserv_58

    I remember leading up to 2004 draft it was reported that of the QB’s in that draft, Cowher liked Rivers the most. I was a fan of Rivers and his unorthodox throwing motion because the guy was a winner. Hindsight being what it is, Cowher had a good eye for QB talent.

    I’ve always felt that if Rivers was drafted by the right team he would have had a SB ring or two. I give him props for being as loyal and dedicated to the Chargers as he is. He could have easily signed with another team, but he didn’t and he deserves respect for that.

  • Conserv_58

    Your last sentence speaks volumes. We fans are guilty of a lack of perspective sometimes. I know I am. After contemplating what’s actually been taking place, (playing well below their capabilities, yet still winning) the light went on in my head that I was too quick to judge and therefore, I wasn’t seeing the big picture. Then it dawned on me, the Steelers are 2-0, while not playing up to their potential yet and I’m complaining? I should be ashamed!

  • Boots

    I get the point you are trying to make but those reps in practice and meetings and doing the drills and getting hit and everything else that comes along with 5 weeks of training camp goes a long way towards being ready to play real football so i think it’s realistic to believe that he’s still getting into his groove.

  • Boots

    He’s done enough track stuff this off-season he needs football work now!!!

  • Matthew Marczi

    You also learn things in training camp and study a lot and watch others doing things. He missed not just training camp but the entire offseason. I don’t think it can really be dismissed that he basically came in off the street six days before things mattered.

  • Steve

    Don’t care what type of working out Bell was doing, nothing compares to on the field football shape. Bell needs to get into camp to earn his pay, not loaf in Florida rapping. Hell never make a dime singing, so he better get to work as a RB.

  • NCSteel

    Right on