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The Steelers surely are concerned with the possibility of not having running back Le'Veon Bell for the first month of the season, and for good reason, as he continues to wait to hear the results of the the appeal of his four-game suspension for violation the NFL's drug policy.
As for being concerned about Bell's surgically repaired knee, there are far fewer worries, and that's been solidified through the first three days of training camp at St. Vincent College.
Bell is less than nine months removed from an ugly knee injury he suffered in November against the Bengals that tore his his MCL and PCL, requiring surgery and keeping him out of the final two months of the season.
Through the early stages of camp, you'd be hard-pressed to tell that Bell is recovering from any injury let alone a severe knee injury. You can lump offensive coordinator Todd Haley into that group of being pleasantly surprised.
Any concern Haley had about the health of Bell's knee lessened dramatically about 10 minutes into the run test on reporting day.
Bell ran his required eight 100-yard gassers with his scheduled first group then turned around a few minutes later and ran eight more with the second group.
Yes, 16 100-yard gassers in less than 30 minutes and ...
“He never walked once,” Haley said. “He's the only one I have ever noticed in my time here to do it. That's was an impressive thing to come out and do.”
Bell has been a full participant during the first two practices and continues to check off boxes in his recovery. Bell took part in 11-on-11 team drills on Friday, which is the first time he's done that since injuring his knee. On Saturday, Bell was jumping and cutting on a significantly wet field with no issues at all.
Bell even took his first hit when Lawrence Timmons bumped him to the ground during a run play. Bell popped up like nothing happened. On Sunday, the Steelers will put the pads on for the first time during camp, which will be yet another milestone for Bell on his road to recovery
“Yeah, knock on wood, he's looking good,” Haley said. “He's worked hard and is a young guy who has been able to bounce back quickly.”
Bell has been a difference-maker when healthy and has quickly ascended to being one of the top running backs in the league despite missing 16 games (including the playoffs) in his short three-year career.
Bell rushed for 1,351 yards and caught 83 passes 854 yards in his only healthy season in 2014. Bell played in only six games last year, but was still able to put up nearly 700 yards of total offense.
Bell's loss would be significant, but, according to Haley, not crushing to an already talented offense.
If Bell is forced to miss any time, Haley said the offense is still in good shape because of DeAngelo Williams. Williams, the veteran who the Steelers signed last year to provide depth at the position, rushed for more than 900 yards and led the NFL with 11 rushing touchdowns in Bell's absence.
“You can't really worry about it,” Haley said of possibly losing Bell. “You have to get all of those guys ready to go. The comforting thing is that we got a year's worth with DeAngelo. He knows us, we know him, we know what he likes and what he is really good at. That's comforting.”
Mark Kaboly is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.
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