Le'Veon Bell's return should boost Steelers' running game

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They have more -- and more distinct -- phone booths in London than they do in Pittsburgh, so maybe Le'Veon Bell can be the one to emerge from one Sunday to save the season for the Steelers.

After all, Mike Tomlin did not warn Steelers fans that Bell would not step out of a phone booth wearing a cape as the coach indicated Heath Miller would not last week.

Saving the season might be a stretch, but throwing a lifesaver to a running game that is next-to-the-bottom in the league is possible.

"It's a great opportunity for me," Bell said. "I can't wait to go out there and show people what I can do."

It has been awhile. Bell missed the first preseason game with a bruised knee. His only action with the Steelers, other than in early training camp practices, came in the second preseason game when he carried four times for 9 yards and left with a right mid-foot sprain. He did not resume practice until last week, and now says his foot has recovered "100 percent."

"I have to be confident in myself to go out there and help the run game," Bell said. "Of course, there are lot of other people I'll depend on."

Those would be his offensive linemen, and they believe he will boost their running attack, too.

"Definitely, with a guy like that," tackle Marcus Gilbert said. "He's an Adrian Peterson-type -- I don't want to put him in the same category yet, but he has that type of playmaking ability to break tackles and get yards after he's hit.

"Le'Veon is a special back we're glad to have back."

While the defense has to deal Sunday with the Vikings' Peterson, their offense is desperate for a competent back. Peterson ran for more yards on his first carry this season, 78, than the 76 the Steelers had combined through their first two games. They believe they found a spark in their running game Sunday, even though they managed only 80 against the Chicago Bears.

"He brings everything to the table," Gilbert said of Bell. "He can run the inside zone, outside zone, he can block -- this guy's he's an every-down back. I think just getting him out there can really help us."

The Steelers drafted Bell from Michigan State in the second round after they decided to add zone blocking to their repertoire, a scheme that requires a runner who can cut back against the grain when the hole develops that way.

Without Bell, they have floundered and not used the zone blocking much. Their backfield has been without focus. They started Isaac Redman in the first game and, after he was hit in the head on the opening kickoff of the second game, they started Felix Jones the next two.

Jones was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles in the middle of the preseason. Jonathan Dwyer, who played before Redman last week after Jones lost a fumble and was slightly hurt, was cut before the season and re-signed after the first game.

Redman and Dwyer believe Bell will boost their ground game.

"He's young, he's talented, he's explosive," Redman said. "He should have a good day. I feel we match up well against their defense. I feel our O-line can get a good push on them. They're not as big as a couple of defensive lines we've faced."

Said Dwyer: "He's a good player. I think he'll help us out a lot."

Bell said he wanted to beat the 6-8 weeks he was initially told he would miss, and that he does not believe they are rushing him into a game too soon. He said a second MRI was not needed because his foot feels fine.

"At the end of the day, I have a long career, so I feel like I'm ready now and I'm ready to help this team win games."

Redman fools them all

Redman left the second game of the season after he was hit in the head on the kickoff, which he said gave him a concussion, but he returned to play in that game at Cincinnati after he was evaluated, apparently fooling the doctors into letting him return to play.

"I had a concussion," Redman said Wednesday. "I was pretty much out of it the rest of the game. I just tried to go back in."

He was successful, too. During the game, the Steelers announced Redman was being evaluated for a concussion. He returned shortly thereafter in uniform and re-entered the game for the first offensive series of the second quarter.

He carried on second down and gained 2 yards and would carry two more times and catch two passes the rest of the game. Jones started in his place after his head injury and played most of the way at halfback.

The NFL has mandated medical-evaluation protocols during a game when a player is suspected of having a concussion and also follow-up tests before the next game.

So, how did Redman beat the tests, knowing he had a concussion?

"I said I was all right," he answered.

Tomlin did not mention Redman's injury after the game or in his Tuesday news conference, and he was not listed on an injury report last week. Redman did not miss a practice last week.

Missed sack irks LB Jones

Jarvis Jones, still eagerly looking forward to his first sack, is upset at himself for missing one in the second quarter last week against Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler.

Cutler threw incomplete on third down on that play as Jones and Brett Keisel closed in.

"There is no excuse for missing it,'' Jones said.

His job turns a little different this week because Peterson, who ran for 2,097 yards in 2012, drives the Minnesota Vikings attack more than quarterback Christian Ponder.

"I remember Week 1, his first carry went [78] yards," Jones said. "I think if we hone in and stop the run and make them do something other than [what] they like to do, which is run the ball 30-40 times a game, it will be great for us."

The Steelers haven't exactly been adept at stopping the run. Among the best at it on an annual basis, their rush defense ranks 22nd in the NFL.

"It's a challenge for us to get better on the run defense,'' Jones said.


For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published September 26, 2013 4:00 AM


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