Steelers notebook: No timetable for Le'Veon Bell's return, Kevin Colbert says
February 24, 2016 9:20 PM
Le'Veon Bell picks up first down yardage against the Packers in the first half at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Pa.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
INDIANAPOLIS — Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the Steelers have placed no timetable on All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell to return from his season-ending knee injury.
Colbert said the team’s only objective is to make sure Bell is 100 percent ready for the start of the regular season.
Bell missed the final 10 games last season after being injured on a tackle by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict on Nov. 1. He has had no setbacks in his rehabilitation and is on schedule for his return, whenever that will be.
“He’ll be ready when he’s ready,” Colbert said Wednesday on the first day of the NFL Combine. “There’s no timetable coming from us that requires him to be ready for something. You can’t even say he’ll be ready for the regular season, because you won’t know that until he goes through the whole process. His health and his ability to return at 100 percent is the most important thing.”
Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons has the highest cap number on the team in 2016 ($15.1 million) and is in the final year of his contract.
That means the Steelers would have little room to re-work his deal and save on the salary cap without giving him a new contract.
Timmons, a Pro Bowl pick in 2014, got off to a slow start last season after missing the final four games of the preseason with turf toe. Then, with the rise of inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, Timmons came off the field in the dime defense — the first time in years he didn’t play every snap.
“Lawrence was still a highly productive player,” Colbert said. “As the year went on, I thought he played better down the stretch. I think it was a little uncertain with Ryan Shazier in and out of the lineup. I think once Ryan established himself as the other linebacker, I thought Lawrence’s play improved. So, you put those two together, they’re a pretty dynamic group.”
Scarlet, gray, black and gold
Since Colbert became the team’s general manager in 2000, the Steelers have drafted eight players from Ohio State. Curiously, the two Ohio teams — the Browns and Bengals — haven’t paid that much attention to players in their backyard.
The Browns and Bengals have each drafted only two players from Ohio State in the past 16 years. In that same time, the Baltimore Ravens have drafted only one. That means the Steelers have drafted three more Buckeyes than the other teams in the AFC North combined.
The Steelers could add to that total this year because there are several Ohio State players who might of interest them — safety Vonn Bell, a potential first-round pick, and tight end Nick Vannett.
“They have a great class,” Colbert said. “Coach [Urban] Meyer put together a great recruiting class at Ohio State, much like he did a few years ago with the University of Florida. There was a special class that the Pounceys and the Tebows of the world were all together, so I think that just speaks volumes as to his ability to put together a great team. And they won a national championship, so it’s not surprising that they have a lot of draft prospects this year.”
The eight players the Steelers have drafted from Ohio State under Colbert: cornerback Doran Grant (2015), ILB Shazier (2014), tackle Mike Adams (2012), DE Cam Heyward (2011), LB Thaddeus Gibson (2010), DE Doug Worthington (2010), WR Santonio Holmes (2006) and DE Rodney Bailey (2001).
Tennessee Titans coach Mike Mularkey, who was hired full time after serving as an interim coach for nine games in 2015, has kept the Pittsburgh flavor alive in Nashville.
In addition to Dick LeBeau, who joined the Titans as defensive coordinator last year after not being retained by the Steelers, Mularkey has hired Russ Grimm as offensive line coach, Deshea Townsend as secondary coach, Bob Bratkowski as wide receivers coach, Nick Eason as defensive line coach, Bobby April as special teams coordinator, Lou Spanos as linebackers coach and Keith Willis as assistant defensive line coach. All played or coached with the Steelers.
“We’re Pittsburgh south,” said Mularkey, a former Steelers tight end and offensive coordinator.
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com or Twitter @gerrydulac.
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