Pittsburgh Steelers fans and fantasy owners alike are officially sweating.
It’s Tuesday before Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns, and Le’Veon Bell is still not at Steelers practice. Whether he’s lashing out a report that he was planning to arrive on Labor Day or holding out for something more is irrelevant at this point.
Steelers have no choice but to think about Bell’s backup
The Steelers are now forced to consider their options.
Head coach Mike Tomlin addressed Bell’s absence Tuesday for the first time since his surprise Monday no-show and talked up backup running back James Conner.
He told reporters that he’s more comfortable with the status of his backup running backs now more than last year. When asked why, he pointed to Conner.
“James — the status and condition and approach of James,” Tomlin said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Being a rookie who missed a lot of time due to soft tissue injuries and lack of general readiness to a guy who’s done the things that we outlined.”
Bell’s teammates talk about his absence
Tomlin, who said he hasn’t spoken with Bell this week, wasn’t the only one at Steelers practice talking about Conner Tuesday. Veteran guard Ramon Foster expressed his faith in the Steelers backup as well.
“I trust James,” Foster said. “He’s ready.”
Foster also went on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, pleading with Bell to recognize the opportunity for the Steelers to compete for a Super Bowl.
“If he’s going to be all-in making that happen, I’m OK with that,” Foster said, per The Post-Gazette. “I need him to see that, because we realize we have the team for that.”
ESPN reports that center Mike Pouncey believes Bell will show up on Wednesday.
If he does, it will line up with Bell’s July pledge to have his “best season to date” that came after he and the Steelers failed to reach a long-term deal.
to all my Steeler fans, my desire always has been to retire a Steeler…both sides worked extremely hard today to make that happen, but the NFL is a hard business at times…to the fans that had hope, I’m sorry we let youu down but trust me, 2018 will be my best season to date…
— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) July 16, 2018
What will Bell’s status be when he reports?
Whether he does or doesn’t arrive Wednesday, Bell’s holdout has extended long enough to consider that he won’t be ready to produce at a Pro Bowl level anytime soon. He rushed for 32 yards against the Browns in last year’s season opener after waiting until Monday before opening week to arrive. He didn’t eclipse 100 yards from scrimmage last year until Week 4.
“When he gets here, that’s when we will start quantifying all Le’Veon Bell-related things, his overall readiness, the amount of time we have between his arrival and our next competition, et cetera, et cetera,” Tomlin said. “We will weigh all of those things at the appropriate time. Now, we’re just singularly focused on the guys that are here working and have been here working and kind of building a plan around variables that we know. That’s the appropriate thing.”
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