Tomlin might love Bell more than we loved Red zone Redman

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers rookie running back Le'Veon Bell had a bit of a coming out party with his 93 yard rushing performance in the victory over Baltimore on Sunday, and head coach Mike Tomlin continued to heap heavy amounts of Redman-like fan praise on the young and still unproven commodity.

Remember the time a coach or player showed appreciation for media (or fan) praise showered on him or his team, even if it was undeserved?

Of course you don't, that never happens (thank you, Robert Stack from Airplane).

There was a time when Isaac Redman, the undrafted free agent from Bowie State, was considered maybe the most interesting running back in the world, despite his mostly unknown and unproven abilities.

The over-the-top praise for Sir Isaac "Red zone" Redman didn't result in much on the field, other than 1148 career rushing yards, five rushing touchdowns and five rushing fumbles.

The Steelers parted ways with the beloved Redman on Monday, and I don't know about you, but I'm still waiting for my "thank you" card in the mail for my previous Redman praise--I won't hold my breath.

Anyway, the reason I opened with that question of undeserved praise is because a coach or player rarely passes up the opportunity to "call out" the media for criticism directed at him or his team, even if that criticism was deserved.

On Sunday, after the Steelers thrilling 19-16 victory over Baltimore that netted the team's second consecutive win after four straight losses to start the season, one of the first things head coach Mike Tomlin surly asked in his post game press conference was, "Any questions about Le'Veon Bell?"

It's no secret coach Tomlin has a bit of a disdain for the media, and, like most coaches, he'd probably be in absolute bliss if he never had to deal with a reporter the rest of his career.

I have another question: Remember when Tomlin was hard on rookies and would say things like: "Two dogs. One bone?"

Of course you do, that used to happen all the time. However, when it comes to the rookie running back Bell who, before Sunday's 19 carry, 93 yard performance in the win over the Ravens, had a grand total of 91 yards on 32 carries in just two NFL games, Tomlin sure does seem to go out of his way to protect, defend and reassure him.

Whether it was holding him out of the first preseason game due to a knee bruise, elevating him to the top of the running back depth chart before playing in a single preseason game, or praising him for his 34 yard performance against the Jets, there is no doubt that Tomlin thinks Bell is special and will play a vital role in Pittsburgh's offensive future.

OK, I get that, and like Coach made clear in his weekly press conference on Tuesday, he just wants Bell to know he believes in his abilities:

"I felt the need to assure him that he's doing the right things, that's he's doing what we're asking him to do in a manner of which we ask him to do it," Tomlin said Tuesday. "I don't want him listening to the elevator music. I want him to listen to what matters and that's the opinion of the people that evaluate him."

Don't get me wrong, I've always been of the opinion that the best way to motivate and instill confidence is with a pat on the back and not a swift kick in the butt (a young Terry Bradshaw would be jealous of Bell's treatment). However, if Tomlin is a little angry and put-off by the media and fans who have been critical of Bell, he'll just have to understand their side of it.

Why wouldn't people question the abilities of Bell at this point in his young career, especially after his selection in the second round of the most recent draft was a bit polarizing, to say the least?

After passing on the likes of Eddie Lacy in April, Bell was penciled in to be the featured back almost from Day 1, and people began to expect a lot from him. Was that fair? Perhaps not. But fair or not, it's a bottom line business (thank you, coach Tomlin), and when you prop a guy up, it's easier to knock him off his pedestal when he appears to be no different than any other young player to have come along for the Steelers in recent memory.

Seriously, when was the last time a Steelers rookie had a "So THAT'S why they drafted him" moment? I can't remember the last time, and despite the modest coming out party that Bell had on Sunday, he hasn't really had that moment yet--even if he has been compared to Franco Harris.

Speaking of the Steelers legend, Mean Joe Greene said that after Harris ripped off a long run in a preseason game during his rookie year, he exclaimed: "We got one! We got one!"

In Bell, we still don't know if we have one, regardless of his success on Sunday.

Yes, Bell has given us glimpses of talent and hope for the future, but his longest run has been 11 yards, and he's only gained 184 in three games--the recently cut Redman gained 147 in a game against the Giants last season.

Fact is, Rashard Mendenhall, the walking enigma wrapped inside a strange puzzle, is still the most productive and dynamic running back the Steelers have had in Tomlin's seven seasons, and the young Bell still has much to prove.

Sorry, Coach, but until he does give us that "We got one!" moment, the fans and media will still be asking a lot of questions about Le'Veon Bell.

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