If the Steelers are employing a tactical approach to controlling the news surrounding injured running back Le'Veon Bell, they'd be doing a great job of keeping people guessing.
The move to sign free-agent running back Ben Tate suggests the Steelers need some help at the running back position. Quotes from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin suggest they really aren't sure where Bell will be in terms of participation Saturday in the Wild Card playoffs against the Ravens.
Bell himself completes the circle by suggesting he's ahead of where he thought he'd be from a recovery standpoint.
Operation Imply and Confuse appears successful so far.
"I feel really good," Bell said, according to Post Gazette reporter Ray Fittipaldo. "I didn’t expect to be feeling this well this early. I’ll just take it day by day and see how it goes."
There's just enough optimism there to rosy up the glasses of fans hoping to see the team's MVP on the field on Saturday. There also has been enough laid out there to show the team is preparing for a worst-case scenario. And while the Steelers themselves may not even know whether Bell will play, they've successfully masked any intentions they might have to actually play him.
And if he's healthy enough to play? He'll attempt once again to become the first Steelers running back in 23 games - over 10 years - to rush for 100 yards against the Ravens. If he's not, the Steelers will likely look to get some kind of production out of a rotation of Josh Harrison, Dri Archer and Tate. That's similar to saying they will throw the ball a lot.
That's perhaps that's the best strategy against the Ravens anyway, with Ben Roethlisberger finishing tied for the league lead with 4,952 passing yards and coming off of the best season he's had as a pro. Bell is a critical component in a Steelers' offense ranked second in yardage, but it's not as if the Ravens can be expected to shut it down simply because Bell isn't playing.
It seems like a good idea to present all angles of "could be playing, might not be playing." Fewer adjustments can be made, and more time must be spent practicing for a Steelers team with and without Bell.
Wait until about 90 minutes before kickoff to learn whether Bell is likely to dress. Wait until the first snap of the game to find out whether he'll actually be playing.