Ben Roethlisberger: ‘No idea’ when Le’Veon Bell will report to Steelers
Le’Veon Bell’s locker is still intact and remains stocked with clothing and other items. But when many of the Pittsburgh Steelers retreated to their locker room at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex after morning meetings, it again had no player sitting at it.
With a regular-season game just four days away, Bell remained away from the Steelers on Wednesday.
And no one seems to know when Bell might report, either.
“I have no idea,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “My guess is as good as yours.”
Bell has yet to sign his $14.5 million franchise-tag tender for the season. Unless the Steelers rescind the contract offer, Bell will miss out on a game check of more than $850,000 per week.
But even if Bell reports and signs late this week, at this point it’s possible – if not likely – that the Steelers will proceed without him for the game at Cleveland. The combination of Bell’s “football shape” needing monitored and that the gameplan has already been installed would seem to imply that James Conner – and not Bell – will be the Steelers’ feature back against the Browns on Sunday.
“You have to, right?” Roethlisberger said of planning under the assumption Bell won’t play.
“We’re focused on the Cleveland Browns right now,” Roethlisberger said moments earlier. “I’ve got to prepare myself to be as ready as I can be to go out there on Sunday and face a really good defense… (Bell) is one of the best in the business, so anytime you have a guy like that you want to have him on the field with you.”
Bell accounted for 34 percent of the Steelers’ offense (1,946 yards from scrimmage) in the 15 games he played last season. Despite his status, though, as one of the NFL’s best all-around running backs, Roethlisberger insists the Steelers can win without him.
“I think we’re a very good offense,” he said. “Football is the ultimate team sport. One person doesn’t make or break you, so I’d like to say that the linemen are more important than any skill position player, including myself, on this team. This offense is more than just one guy.”
But even if the Steelers can weather the absence of Bell on the field, has the drama surrounding his situation affected them off of it? No, Roethlisberger insists.
“I have been doing this long enough that I just let (the myriad questions about Bell) roll off my back. Other guys it might be bothering them and whatnot. I think it’s an awesome opportunity for James and other backs to get a lot of reps and for us to get a feel for them as well.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.