There is no debate about whether or not Le'Veon Bell is an elite running back in the NFL. In fact, after his amazing 2014 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the only debate surrounding Bell is which other running back could possibly match the versatility and success he saw last season.
However, with the accolades comes the saga surrounding Bell in many different ways. Any Steelers fan will be able to tell you how scary the hit on Bell's knee was in Week 17 of 2014 when Cincinnati Bengals safety Reggie Nelson delivered a crippling hit on the running back's knee as he caught a pass over the middle of the field.
An entire offseason has come and gone and Bell states his knee still isn't at full strength, claiming his injured knee still doesn't feel the same in comparison to his healthy knee. Not surprising after watching the hit, but then again a cause for concern in the back of fans' minds everywhere.
5 Steelers to start camp on PUP already behind
Mike Tomlin listed 5 players who will start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, and those 5 players will already be behind the proverbial eight-ball in terms of proving their worth.
Some will point to Bell's upcoming suspension as a way for the running back to make sure he is 100-percent healthy before he plays in his first meaningful snaps of the 2015 season; however, to me the suspension is just another aspect of the Bell saga which should be resolved by now, yet isn't.
Bell's three-game suspension was appealed by his camp after the ruling was handed down months ago; however, Bell has yet to hear anything on the appeal process, as well as the status of his three-game suspension being reduced at all. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gave a strange answer when asked about the status of Bell's appeal recently, claiming he was "unaware" of the status and who was hearing the appeal.
Bell's ultimate goal is just to get the suspension over with as soon as possible. "As quick as I can get back on the field with my teammates will be the biggest thing for me," Bell told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I want to make sure that I do everything in my power to be a better teammate and be the best teammate I can when I am out here."
"Whatever it is, I am just going to take it and move forward from it."
Bell's suspension will certainly loom over training camp until the NFL league office determines whether the suspension will be held at three games, or if it will be reduced prior to the season starting. Either way, don't expect the Steelers to make any adjustments to the overall workload given to Bell in the preseason.
"I am going to treat him like I treat everyone else who is in the position that he is in: He's a first-team tailback, and he's going to run with that group," Tomlin said at his press conference following the team's run test yesterday.
For Bell, his repetitions in camp and the preseason don't really matter to him. Simply put, it is up to coach.
"However coach splits my reps up or handles it in practice, I want to make sure that I give them my all every time I am out there," "I am pretty sure he isn't going to kill me like my rookie year and maybe not as bad as last year. I might get a lighter load."
Bell's knee, his off-the-field issues stemming from last season which lead to a three-game suspension, and a seemingly botched appeal from the league office have a gigantic question mark surrounding the Steelers' 2014 Most Valuable Player. The unfortunate aspect of this saga is it will continue until Bell's suspension - however long it may be - is complete and he is back on the field. Not only just returning to the playing field, but also not suffering a setback stemming from his knee injury last season.
The Steelers are in a holding pattern for now in regards to the Le'Veon Bell saga, but will be looking to take off when Bell returns to the lineup in 2015. The organization will be anxious to finally put this entire ordeal in the past, so he and the rest of the team can focus on the future.