Tomlin says Steelers’ Bell will get better

September 12, 2017
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell takes up Dairy Queen on a job interview Tuesday in Pittsburgh after he jokingly applied for a DQ position via Twitter. - Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – Le’Veon Bell wasn’t happy with his performance, or lack thereof, against the Cleveland Browns Sunday.

Neither was head coach Mike Tomlin.

But neither expect a repeat from Bell after he was limited to 32 rushing yards on 10 carries and three receptions for 15 yards in a 21-18 win by Pittsburgh.

According to Tomlin, Bell, who signed a $12.12-million franchise tender a week before the season began, didn’t struggle because he had missed the entire preseason.

“I just thought that we were highly penalized on offense,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “It kills drives, it kills balance, it reduces the total number of snaps – I think we had 55 snaps in the game. So you can have whatever discussion you want to have regarding our lack of production on offense. You can talk it up to Le’Veon missing camp, you can talk about them being dominate. You can talk about whatever you want to talk about. The reality is, when you are penalized like we were in the game, you are going to lose your balance. It’s going to put you behind chains.”

To Tomlin’s point, the Steelers were penalized 13 times for 144 yards. Seven of those penalties came on offense, putting the Steelers in plenty of long-down situations.

“I didn’t really feel rusty,” said Bell, who held out the offseason and practiced only four times before Sunday. “It was just getting into the mix in the game. I’ve got to get into the mix in the game and I didn’t really feel like I did that.”

The Steelers spent a lot of time with empty backfield packages early in the game, either using Bell at wide receiver or not having him on the field at all. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told KDKA-FM that was what the defense dictated.

“It’s a patience thing. He’s going to have to be patient,” Roethlisberger said. “With all of the penalties, with not many rushing yards, we won the game. We have to be an unselfish group. There are going to be days when (Bell) has 200, 300 yards, (Antonio Brown) is going to have 10 yards receiving. Whatever it is. There are a lot of guys on this team that are willing to sacrifice stats for winning.

“I think there were some things were we didn’t connect but I didn’t feel like it wasn’t because we weren’t on the same page.”

Roethlisberger was quick to note that Bell didn’t complain about his lack of touches or yards. But the 47-yard effort was the lowest of his career.

Tomlin simply said, “It will,” when asked if he expects Bell’s performances to be better and squashed any theories that it might linger because of the missed time.

“You can sing that Le’Veon Bell camp song all you want,” Tomlin said. “He’s here. He’s working. It’s Week 2. We’re getting ready to play the Minnesota Vikings. I’m done with it.”

Odds and end zones

The Steelers terminated the contract of linebacker L.J. Fort and re-signed linebacker Steven Johnson. Fort led the team in tackles in the preseason and in special-teams tackles against the Browns with two. Johnson was released Saturday to make room for Bell on the active roster. … In addition to defensive end Stephon Tuitt (arm), safety J.J. Wilcox (concussion) and outside linebacker Bud Dupree (shoulder) are the only Steelers on the injury report.

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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