Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell has recovered from a foot injury and could start for the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Ben Roethlisberger isn’t exactly breaking out the party hats.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger said on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh that “You can’t get a read on him.”
Roethlisberger intimated that Bell doesn’t always practice hard. He said that Bell isn’t like Heath Miller, who “was busting his butt every day to get back there.”
It’s funny how history repeats itself.
Almost exactly nine years ago, veteran guard Alan Faneca wasn’t exactly jumping for joy over Roethlisberger starting in place of an injured Tommy Maddox.
Roethlisberger was a rookie, and Faneca referred to him as “some little young kid,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via ESPN.com.
That “kid” led the Steelers to 13 straight wins and a 15-1 record.
The Steelers sure could use 13 straight wins now.
The circumstances were a little different when Faneca talked about Roethlisberger in 2004. He wasn’t questioning his work ethic.
If Bell isn’t working hard in practice, then it needs to be addressed. Maybe Roethlisberger is trying to light a fire under the rookie’s backside, and maybe Faneca was trying to do the same thing nine years ago.
Sure, Roethlisberger’s performance has been among the Steelers’ problems this year. He’s thrown four interceptions and lost three fumbles.
He also owns two Super Bowl rings and was voted a team captain. He must do all he can as a leader to try to pull the Steelers out of this 0-3 mess.
In fairness to Bell, when he hurt his foot in Week 2 of the preseason against the Washington Redskins, he had a crestfallen look on his face. He looked like someone who badly wanted to be on the field, and after already missing practice time with a bruised left knee, this was another setback.
Bell gained 1,793 yards on the ground for Michigan State in 2012, leading the Big Ten. He played in 40 games for the Spartans, never missing one.
The second-round draft pick told Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider that he didn’t even miss any games in high school, junior high school and Pop Warner.
The NFL has been a different story.
In a way, it’s fitting that Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley compared Bell to former Titans running back Eddie George after he was drafted, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
After winning the Heisman Trophy in 1995, George was in a Tylenol commercial that debuted during Super Bowl XXX, when the Steelers played the Cowboys.
Reggie White, Neil Smith and Ken Norton Jr., all defensive stars in the NFL at the time, told George that he’ll be endorsing a lot of products, and that he ought to think about Tylenol because he’ll be using it a lot in the NFL.
White goes on to say that Tylenol is the brand that hospitals use most.
“Hospitals?” George said.
“Hospitals.” White, Smith and Norton say in unison.
This is the NFL, they were telling him, and you’re going to feel pain.
It turned out George didn’t miss a game until 2004, his final season.
Bell hasn’t been so durable. He might have been a big man on campus without a scratch on his body in college, but so far in the NFL he hasn’t adjusted to playing against bigger, faster and stronger athletes.
Now that Bell is apparently healthy, the rookie still has to prove that he belongs in the NFL. That’s not a given considering the Steelers’ recent success rate in the draft.
As anemic as the Steelers’ rushing attack was last season, it’s worse this season. They’re 31st in the NFL with 51.7 yards per game and 28th with 3.0 yards per carry.
They haven’t significantly improved their offense through the draft since 2010, when they took Maurkice Pouncey, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.
Bell has to reverse that trend, and Roethlisberger made it clear just how much they need him.