By DAN SCIFO
Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Le’Veon Bell said Friday the left knee injury he re-aggravated during practice a day earlier isn’t believed to be serious.
“It’s not too bad, nothing too major,” said Bell, who added there was no ligament tear. “I don’t know the length or period of time, but it’s not as bad as everybody thinks it is.”
The second-round pick from Michigan State proved it by dressing in full pads and practicing in a limited capacity, participating in non-contact work with the other running backs. He sat out all team drills.
“He’s got a clean bill of health, so it’s time to get back out here and start the process of readying himself for the game like all other healthy men,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
Bell’s status for the team’s second preseason game Monday night at Washington remains uncertain, but the rookie hopes to see action.
“I’m going to try my best,” Bell said. “I can’t make any promises, but we’re going to see.”
Bell pulled up following a running play during a non-contact team drill Thursday when a group of defensive players dropped the rookie to the ground. Bell fell to the grass and stayed on his back for several minutes while trainers examined his left knee.
“I just remember running the ball, I kind of started slowing down, and I got hit,” Bell said. “Guys are strong and big out here, so they kind of knocked me off balance and I fell awkwardly on my leg.”
Trainers helped Bell to his feet and he gingerly limped to the sideline, where he finished practice with an ice bag wrapped around his leg. After practice, he limped with little to no bend in his knee to a waiting golf cart and left the field.
Tomlin has conducted a physical training camp, arguably the most intense of his seven-year tenure in Pittsburgh, featuring at least one period of live tackling almost daily. Bell was injured in a non-contact drill, but the rookie isn’t blaming his teammates.
“I just kind of let off the gear a little too much,” Bell said. “It’s something that usually happens all the time. I just don’t fall on it. But when I fell, I fell awkwardly.”
Bell said it was an aggravation of the same setback that kept him out of last Saturday’s preseason home opener against the New York Giants, though not as serious. Tomlin called the decision to sit Bell precautionary after he injured his knee and was held out or limited in several other practices during the week leading to the game.
“He’s going to do what’s best for me, so I have to stand behind that, I have to be supportive of that,” Bell said.
The ill-timed injury took place one day after Tomlin listed Bell and Isaac Redman as co-starters on the depth chart prior to the Steelers’ second preseason game Monday. Redman also left Thursday’s practice early with a stinger, but like Bell, also saw limited work on Friday.
“We’ll continue to march those guys back hopefully toward participation, but we’ll simply take it day-by-day,” Tomlin said.
Bell was a durable feature back at Michigan State, appearing in 40 games, including starts in his final 19 contests. He ranks top-10 in school history in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns.
Bell earned his spot alongside Redman atop the depth chart with an impressive training camp, displaying the patience, speed, and physical ability to run within the Steelers’ new outside-zone blocking scheme, and pass protect for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers drafted Bell in the second round after parting ways with 2008 first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall in the offseason . Bell was brought in, not just to compete with Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, and Baron Batch, but also to help boost last year’s 26th-ranked rushing attack.
He is likely to still have that opportunity when he returns.
“The way it happened for Le’Veon, for sure, it looked bad, so I was glad that it’s not anything serious,” Dwyer said.
Notes: The Steelers signed running back Jeremy Wright and waived kicker Daniel Hrapmann. Wright who rushed for 824 yards and 10 touchdowns last year at Louisville, also spent time with the New York Giants. The Steelers will hold their final training camp practice at St. Vincent College today before breaking camp and moving workouts to Pittsburgh.