LATROBE – Imagine how solid a starter Le'Veon Bell will be once he actually, you know, carries a football in a preseason game.
After missing the first game of his pro career, Bell was installed as a co-starter with Isaac Redman on the Steelers' depth chart heading into Monday night's second friendly at Washington's FedEx Field.
(As opposed to the unfriendly against Minnesota at Wembley.)
But back to Bell: He was elevated from deep third team to either 1 or 1a by coach Mike Tomlin, who craftily listed Bell and Redman, separated only by the word "or," on this week's depth chart.
Think Tomlin needs to work on his subtlety?
A little bit?
It was Tomlin, wasn't it, who chastised the media for asking so many questions about Bell from the moment the rookie man-child set foot on the blades of grass on and around the Saint Vincent College campus?
Tomlin made it sound like the media was forcing his hand into playing Bell, prematurely or not, with the starters. To his credit, Tomlin said about a week ago that Bell had earned the right to run a few plays with the starters.
Apparently, Bell looked pretty good in Monday's practice because there he is, with only the word "or" standing between him and the starting running back job.
It's somewhat ironic, to me anyway, that Bell will get his NFL feet wet against the Washington Redskins. Washington coach Mike Shanahan brought zone blocking to the NFL back when he and Terrell Davis were leading the Denver Broncos to a couple of Super Bowl wins.
So, now the Steelers are implementing an outside zone blocking scheme that was almost absent last Saturday night against the Giants.
You would think a coach like Shanahan would have some sort of defense designed to stop the scheme, since he either brought it to the NFL or perfected it. That would make for some fun preseason football, wouldn't it?
Maybe, just maybe, Bell is the key to the Steelers running the outside zone blocking scheme. Maybe we're about to see a re-invention of Pittsburgh's running game.
Or maybe Tomlin just wants to see his second- round pick get the game-day work he has earned.
In either case, it's becoming quite apparent that Bell will be the opening day starter at running back. Injury is the only thing standing in the way.
He would be the first Steelers rookie to start at running back since 1989, when Tim Worley won the opening day start over Merril Hoge.
Here's to hoping this experiment works out better than that one