Steelers’ Mike Tomlin says he hasn’t thought about expectations for Le’Veon Bell

October 2, 2018

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin urges on his team during practice Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 at Saint Vincent College.

Anyone seeking confirmation on Le’Veon Bell’s potential return to the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t get the answers they were seeking from coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday.

Tomlin said he hasn’t communicated with his star running back this week, and he was vague on expectations for Bell’s arrival.

Bell remains away from the team while deciding when to sign his $14.54 million franchise tender.

“I hadn’t thought about it,” Tomlin said at his weekly press conference. “We’ll see. Much like I’ve told you guys throughout this process, once he gets here, then we’ll start quantifying all Le’Veon Bell-related things – his overall readiness, the amount of time we have between his arrival and our next competition. … We’ll weight all of those things at the appropriate time.

“Right now we are singularly focused on the guys that have been here and working and we’re building a plan around the variables that we know. That’s the appropriate thing.”

Center Maurkice Pouncey said Monday that he anticipates Bell rejoining the team Wednesday when the players resume practicing after an off day. The team had a bonus practice Monday and, unlike last year, Bell was not a part of it.

The longer Bell delays his arrival – it would cost him $855,000 for each week he misses – the closer the Steelers get to starting second-year player James Conner at running back. Conner received the first-team reps in preseason, and Tomlin said the game plan will not be altered if Bell isn’t on the field.

Tomlin also said he is more comfortable about his running back depth than at this point last year.

Why is that?

“James,” he said. “The status and condition and the approach of James.”

Veteran Stevan Ridley and rookie fifth-rounder Jaylen Samuels are the other running backs on the 53-man roster.

Tomlin also said the decision to terminate the contract of veteran backup quarterback Landry Jones was “difficult.”

Jones had spent the past five seasons on the roster, including three as Ben Roethlisberger’s backup, before being let go Saturday. The Steelers will use second-year quarterback Joshua Dobbs as the backup, with rookie Mason Rudolph starting the season as the No. 3 quarterback.

Dobbs entered the preseason fighting for the third spot at quarterback and sealed his job with a strong performance in the preseason finale against Carolina.

“It wasn’t about what Landry did or didn’t do. It was about what Josh did,” Tomlin said. “Josh was presented with very tangible challenges. He didn’t shrink in the face of it. As a matter of fact, he rose up in the face of it. He provided good and consistent play for us.”

Addressing injuries, Tomlin expects every player on the 53-man roster to be at least a partial participant Wednesday, including tight end Vance McDonald, who has missed more than a month because of a foot injury.

“I’ll know more once he participates tomorrow,” Tomlin said.

Other players with injuries that Tomlin expects to have available in practice are wide receiver James Washington, cornerback Mike Hilton, outside linebacker T.J. Watt and tight end Xavier Grimble. All four players participated in practice Monday.

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