Mike Tomlin doesn’t care that Le’Veon Bell’s agent apparently wants to know the plan for his client’s workload before the running back reports to the Steelers.
Tomlin offered a terse response Thursday after practice when asked about Adisa Bakari’s assertion that the Steelers coach may overuse Bell in his anticipated final season with the team.
“I don’t communicate with agents regarding how I utilize players,” Tomlin said. “I communicate with players on how I utilize players.”
The Steelers are prepared to play the season opener Sunday in Cleveland without Bell, who remains away from the team while determining when he will sign his $14.544 million franchise tender.
Bell has missed three of the four practices scheduled for this week – in addition to all offseason workouts, training camp and the preseason.
Tomlin said he doesn’t know why Bell remains absent after it seemed like he would rejoin his teammates on Labor Day – like he did in the 2017 season.
“I’d be speculating like you guys are speculating,” Tomlin said.
And Tomlin refuses to speculate.
“I didn’t want to waste time and energy because it’s just that – a waste of time,” he said. “I told you guys initially when we opened training camp that the two most important variables were when he showed up and, once he showed up, the condition that he was in.
“Until that time, we were going to remain focused on those that were working and their preparation.”
The Steelers will start second-year running back James Conner against the Browns.
Asked if he is disappointed by Bell’s actions, Tomlin said, “My level of disappointment is never a factor in our approach to business.”
Asked if Bell’s absence can have an impact on the team, he responded, “It can. Whether it’s negative or positive, it’s up to the team.”
Guard David DeCastro said the players are rallying around Conner and backups Stevan Ridley and Jaylen Samuels.
“Le’Veon is not here so we’ve got to show we can go out and do it without him,” he said. “If we don’t do well against Cleveland, then all of those questions come up and there’s a lot of pressure. … That’s why we have to do well, so we can eliminate those questions.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at [email protected] or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.