PITTSBURGH -- It has been largely a forgettable NFL season for running back Ben Tate. Until now, that is.
Tate, a second-round pick by the Houston Texans in 2010, didn't build on his 2013 breakout season for them and, later, he ended up being cut by the Cleveland Browns after eight games and the Minnesota Vikings after just three. Then, the Pittsburgh Steelers gave him a call.
The Steelers are hedging their bet that superstar back Le'Veon Bell's injured right knee will keep him from playing, or at least will limit him against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC wild-card playoff game on Saturday night at Heinz Field. So, they signed Tate as insurance.
"Whatever way I can help, it really doesn't matter,'' Tate said Wednesday after his first practice. "Whatever it is, my job right now is to pick up this offense and learn as much as I can.''
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Tate had a breakout season for the Texans in 2013 with 771 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He also had 34 catches out of the backfield. In two games for Cleveland this year against the Steelers, Tate tallied 119 yards rushing on 31 carries, including 25 for 78 yards and two touchdowns in a Browns home win.
However, his playing time diminished after that, and so did his attitude. He was released and eventually signed by the Vikings, who played him sparingly and recently released him as well. Attitude issues didn't keep the Steelers from signing him, since they were desperate with only two untested rookies playing behind Bell, which gave Tate an opening to talk with his new team.
"He stood up in our team meeting room and said he's just here to help us win,'' Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "If that's the attitude, the mindset, we're all for it.''
Tate was asked why he chose to talk to his new teammates that way.
"I just wanted the team to know that I'm here to help them,'' Tate said. "That's it. ... I haven't even been here 24 hours, yet. So, I'm just focusing on trying to learn the playbook, and everything else will work itself out.''
Tate refused to talk about this season to date, preferring to look to his future with the Steelers, however brief.
"I'm just here to help out and do my part, whatever that part is,'' Tate added. "I just got here, so I'm trying to get to know the guys and learn the playbook. ... I'm here now, and I'm a Steeler now. So, that's all I'm really worrying about.''
Bell said on Wednesday that he felt much better than he did Monday morning, and he appeared to be optimistic about his chances to play. If he can't, the Steelers have three players -- Tate and rookies Josh Harris and Dri Archer -- to pick up the slack.