Full Go For Le'Veon Bell

The Steelers' star running back returns directly to the starting lineup Sunday following his suspension.

There will be none of this easing of Le'Veon Bell back into the Pittsburgh Steelers lineup.

It's full on for the St. Louis Rams.

Mike Tomlin doesn't even need to watch him practice.

"No, I'm going to play Le'Veon Bell," Tomlin said of the star running back who returns Sunday from a two-game suspension.

DeAngelo Williams had replaced Bell, and Williams' 204 yards (5.0 avg.) stand second in the NFL.

Williams also caught five passes for 20 yards and clearly understands pass protection. But even he knows his time as a starter is up.

"There's not one person more excited than me when Le'Veon gets back," Williams said early last week. "I love watching him run the football, man. There's not another guy in this league who runs the ball like he does. He's special. And I've told him that day in and day out. He's special. I like to see him run the football and I can't wait till he gets back. So for everybody outside that wants to think of a running back controversy, they can kick rocks, because I can't wait till he gets back."

Bell will carry the bulk of the load, but how will Tomlin use Williams?

"We'll figure that out as we go," Tomlin said. "But if 26 is available, we're going to use him."

Any concerns that Bell hasn't been hit in three weeks? Or that he only carried 10 times (32 yards) in the preseason?

"No," Tomlin said.

Tomlin also said he's not likely to make the corresponding roster move for Bell much earlier than the required 4 p.m. Wednesday deadline.


The only injury Tomlin mentioned was swelling in the left knee of backup nose tackle Daniel McCullers, which may limit McCullers' practice time.

Tomlin was asked about the knee injury that sidelined cornerback Cortez Allen last week and Tomlin said he hadn't checked on Allen.

"Last week he wasn't able to practice enough for me to decide to play him," Tomlin explained. "We'll check his knee inflammation this week and we'll base those decisions on practice availability and performance."

In place of Allen, Ross Cockrell took part in 39 snaps as the No. 3 corner and Brandon Boykin took part in 11 as an occasional replacement for starter Antwon Blake.

"I thought both guys were serviceable and above the line," Tomlin said. "But I'll expect those guys to take a step as we move forward because they've gotten that first action under their belt in a stadium with us, so it's reasonable to expect them to improve."


Just as Tomlin spoke effusively about the abilties of another local St. Louis Ram, Pitt's Aaron Donald, Tomlin began his offensive review of the Rams with a former West Virginia Mountaineer, Tavon Austin.

"Tavon Austin will line up at receiver, in the backfield, he'll run the ball, screens, reverses. He's a dangerous guy down the field as well," Tomlin said. "He's being utilized very similarly to how he was utilized in Morgantown. He's a dangerous player, a guy we have to identify and account for just about every time the ball is snapped."

At WVU, the 5-8, 174-pound Austin compiled 7,246 all-purpose yards and 40 touchdowns. In his third year with the Rams, Austin has caught 74 passes for 664 yards (9.0) and four touchdowns; rushed for 432 yards on 53 carries (8.2 avg.); and has returned 70 punts for 756 yards (10.8) and three touchdowns. He returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown to help the Rams defeat the Seattle Seahawks on opening day.

"They really challenge you with personnel and formations," Tomlin said of Austin and the Rams. "Obviously, with where we are in development from a defensive standpoint, we have to take that challenge seriously."


Tomlin said he uses gut instinct to decide whether to attempt a two-point conversion. He was asked why he doesn't use analytics to help:

"You can take analytics to baseball but football is always going to be football. I have a lot of respect for analytics and numbers but I'm not going to make judgments based on those numbers. The game is the game. It's an emotional one, played by emotional and driven men and that's an element of the game that you can't measure, and oftentimes in a decision such as that those things weigh heavily into the equation."

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