Steelers Bell has surgery as team starts FA visits

March 13, 2017
Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell (26) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against Cleveland last season. - Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell had the franchise tag placed on him by the team earlier this month, in part, because of his ability to cut on a dime.

On Monday, Bell underwent another kind of cut, having surgery for the second consecutive offseason.

Bell, 25, was forced out of the season-ending loss in the AFC Championship against New England in the first quarter because of a sports hernia injury.

Bell finally had surgery to repair the injury, a process that will take about six weeks to heal.

“I appreciate everyone’s thoughts & went really well, & groin already feels better than it did before! I’ll be stronger!” Bell tweeted.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said late last month the team and Bell were waiting to see if surgery could be avoided.

Bell sent out photos pre- and post-op on social media saying the injury had continued to bother him in the weeks after the season-ending loss and finally decided on surgery to correct the issue.

It marks the second consecutive season Bell has had offseason surgery. Last year, Bell had surgery to repair a knee injury that ended his 2015 season.

Meanwhile, the Steelers hosted a pair of free agents yesterday and had plans to have more players in for visits later this week, including highly coveted inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower of New England today.

Hightower, who turned 27 on Sunday, has been linked to a number of teams, including the Patriots, and was flying to Pittsburgh following a visit with the Jets.

A five-year starter for the Patriots, who selected him in the first round of the 2012 draft, Hightower recorded 65 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 13 games last season.

The Steelers lost starting inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons in free agency to Miami Friday to a two-year deal worth $12 million that included $11 million in guaranteed money.

Hightower is asking for an even larger contract.

The Steelers currently have fifth-year pro Vince Williams, who was signed to a three-year contract extension last year, pencilled into their starting lineup next to Ryan Shazier.

Hightower is the highest-profile player scheduled to visit the Steelers this week but is not the only one.

The team met with Green Bay linebacker Jayrone Elliott and Buffalo wide receiver Justin Hunter yesterday and are expected to meet with former Jacksonville cornerback Davon House later this week.

Elliott, 25, has been a backup outside linebacker for the Packers the past three seasons, recording four sacks over the past two.

Hunter, 25, is a former second-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans, where he played for three seasons before spending time with Miami and Buffalo last season. He has averaged 16.7 yards per catch and scored 12 touchdowns on 78 career catches.

House, meanwhile, spent four seasons in Green Bay before signing a four-year, $24.5-million contract with Jacksonville in 2015.

In 72 career games – 33 starts – the 27-year-old House has 48 pass defenses and six interceptions. His best season came in 2015, when he set a Jacksonville record with 23 pass defenses while also recording four interceptions.

But he fell out of favor with the Jaguars last season and was released earlier this offseason after the Jaguars were unable to find a suitable trade.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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