Coach Mike Tomlin said today that rookie running back Le'Veon Bell has a mid-foot sprain in his right foot, but the injury is not as severe as initially feared and he is "optimistic and encouraged" how Bell's foot has responded.
Tomlin said Bell would not play in Saturday night's preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field, but would not speculate on a possible return date.
But he said Bell does not need surgery and that the injury is not a Lisfranc sprain similar to the one incurred tight end Matt Spaeth two weeks ago. Spaeth had surgery to repair the tear and will be out at least eight to 10 weeks.
"We are optimistic and encouraged how it has developed over the last 48 and 72 hours, doing some things without discomfort," Tomlin said. "All those things are positive.
"We don't have a long range schedule [for his return]. We'll treat it conservatively with rehab and declare him out this week. But in the big scheme of things, that is encouraging news."
Asked if Bell would be ready for the regular-season opener against Tennessee, Tomlin said, "I hadn't asked. It's just great to hear that it is what it is. It's perking up day by day."
Bell was on crutches in the locker room, but he said he can walk and put pressure on his foot now after experiencing pain and discomfort in the hours after the injury occurred in Monday night's preseason game at Washington.
"I'm just taking it day by day and trying to get back as soon as I can," Bell said. "I'm already healing quick. As long as the process keeps going the way it is I should be back pretty quick."
Bell, who was known for his durability at Michigan State, has not discussed a timetable with doctors, but he indicated there will be a cautious approach with his rehab.
"It's going to be tough," he said. "If my foot even gets close to me feeling like I can play on it, I'm going to try to play on it. I know it's a long season. I want to make sure everything is comfortable, so I can play how I want to pay. I don't want the injury to come back or get worse. I want to make sure the injury is good and go from there."
Tomlin said he is "not concerned at all" that Bell has been injured three times already in training camp.
"You play football, you get hurt," he said. "It's part of it."
Without him, the Steelers will have to rely on the same two backs as they did last season when Rashard Mendenhall was hurt -- Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer.
However, Tomlin did not say who would start against the Chiefs because Redman is still working his way back from a stinger that kept him out of the game against the Redskins.
"We'll watch their participation (in practice) and make that determination at the 11th hour," Tomlin said.
First Published August 22, 2013 5:00 AM