Give Bell A Chance

Mike Tomlin talked about his RB, his new TE, Sean Spence, flipping out, and the zone-blocking scheme at his weekly press conference.

Le'Veon Bell's no Walter Payton. We can all agree on that.

But with so many reporters and fans questioning Bell's high rookie expectations as the Steelers' next "bell cow" running back, perhaps it's time to take a look at how the late, great Payton fared as a rookie:

* In his first two games, Payton carried 29 times for 95 yards.

* In his first seven games, Payton averaged 3.1 yards per carry.

* Payton came on late to average 3.5 ypc. that season; his team averaged 3.7.

* Payton's team started 1-4, finished 4-10, and the offensive line was so bad the Bears drafted there in the first rounds of the next two drafts.

If not for the next 12 years of Payton's Hall of Fame career, Bell's name could be substituted in the above notes.

At least Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wouldn't snicker.

"I thought he ran well," Tomlin said of Bell's 16-for-34 rushing performance against the New York Jets. "The Jets provide some challenges is terms of run defense. They're No. 2 in the league and they lived up to that. They've got some talented people up front. There weren't many holes. I thought he did a great job of picking with vision and putting the ball where it was supposed to be and running with the type of demeanor that we desire. Obviously, the numbers don't exhibit great success, but I thought it allowed us to have the type of balance necessary to complete splash plays, like the third-and-1 play-action (pass) to Emmanuel Sanders."

The fake to Bell -- who had gained 9 yards on 2 rushes that series -- allowed Sanders to run wide open for a 55-yard touchdown pass.

In Bell's only two games this season, he's carried 31 times for 91 yards, a 2.8 average on a 1-4 team that averages 3.1 per carry and just might draft an offensive lineman in the first round next year.


The Steelers acquired a lame offensive lineman -- as Cardinals coach Bruce Arians declared after last week's trade -- and Levi Brown never was able to play before they put him on injured reserve Tuesday.

Brown won't cost the Steelers the conditional draft pick they had traded, but he will undergo triceps surgery. Tight end David Johnson will undergo wrist surgery and was also placed on injured reserve.

To replace Brown, the Steelers will promote Mike Adams, who was sent to the scout team last week after losing his left tackle job to Kelvin Beachum.

Adams will join Guy Whimper as the Steelers' backup tackles.

To replace Johnson, the Steelers signed Richard Gordon, a 6-4, 268-pound tight end whom Tomlin said "has similar attributes as David in that he's a strong run performer."

The Oakland Raiders drafted Gordon in the sixth round out of Miami in 2011 and he played 27 games with the Raiders. Gordon caught 3 passes and made 17 tackles on special teams during that time.

The Steelers also promoted CB Isaiah Green from the practice squad.


* ILB Sean Spence will be activated from the PUP list this week and will participate in individual practice drills. The Steelers have three weeks to either activate Spence or place him on injured reserve. The latter is expected for Spence, who tore knee ligaments and suffered nerve damage during a preseason game last season, his rookie year.

* DE Brett Keisel is experiencing muscle problems in his ribcage area and OLB LaMarr Woodley has some inflammation on his right knee. Both will be limited early in the week but are expected to play Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

* WR Markus Wheaton will miss the game, his second in a row, with a broken pinky finger.


Tomlin confirmed Ben Roethlisberger's radio report that the type of flip into the end zone used by Sanders during his touchdown Sunday has been outlawed.

"It's potential for injury," Tomlin said. "It's silly."


Tomlin was asked why he's disregarded the outside zone blocking schemes on running plays.

"Not only the offensive line turnover, but the running back turnover," he said. "We're going to lean to our strengths and work to minimize our weaknesses. Outside zone is something we spent a lot of time working on in the off-season, but we had Maurkice Pouncey in the off-season."

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