Mike Tomlin ready for Steelers to move on minus Le’Veon Bell
As the hours tick down to Le’Veon Bell’s deadline to report to the Pittsburgh Steelers, coach Mike Tomlin offered a terse response Monday to the likelihood that the star running back will sit out the entire season.
“So be it,” Tomlin said at his weekly press conference.
At noon, when Tomlin met with the media, Bell still had not reported to UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. If he doesn’t show by 4 p.m. and sign his franchise-tag tender, he will not be allowed to play this season, per NFL rules.
Bell already has missed 10 weeks of pay worth $8.55 million. He will forfeit another $6 million by missing the final seven weeks.
Tomlin was noncommittal when asked whether he expects Bell to report by 4 p.m.
“I don’t know that I have any expectation,” he said. “I don’t know if I ever had any expectation. That’s just a waste of time.”
Tomlin also said he has “no reaction” to reports that Bell, despite returning to Pittsburgh last week, will not rejoin his teammates for the stretch run.
“A reaction comes from me if and when he walks through that door,” Tomlin said. “Until that happens, I’m business as usual and focused on those that are here and working and appropriately so. That way I don’t waste my time and theirs.”
Tomlin reiterated that he has had no contact with Bell since the season began. He didn’t find the lack of communication unusual.
“Under the circumstances, no,” he said. “I understand that business is an element of the game. … Even when we don’t understand it, we’re sensitive to it, so we’re not shocked when things happen from a business standpoint.”
Unless Bell has a last-minute change of heart, the Steelers will finish with the season with James Conner as the starter and rookie Jaylen Samuels and veteran Stevan Ridley as the backups. Conner is third in the NFL in rushing with 771 yards.
“The running back room is the group we’ve been working with since we checked into Latrobe so there is no adjustment,” Tomlin said. “There is no altering of feelings or thoughts regarding addressing the challenges that our schedule holds for us as we move forward.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on his weekly 93.7-FM radio show that he is ready to welcome back Bell — with a caveat.
“If he wants to be a part of this team, to me that is the bigger question,” Roethlisberger said. “If he wants to come here and be part of this team, absolutely. He’s one of the best players in football. Why wouldn’t you want an extra weapon? Why wouldn’t you want a guy that can come do some special things on a football field, give James a break, things like that. It’s only if he wants to.
“We don’t want someone out here just because he has to or feels obligated. If he wanted to be out there with us, we’ll welcome him back.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at [email protected] or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.