Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell on pace for full recovery

Minicamp practices are longer, and so are the notebooks. Here's Jim Wexell's latest from the South Side.

PITTSBURGH -- Le'Veon Bell opened OTAs three weeks ago by running and cutting for the trainer, and then he disappeared.

Bell was back on the field for the start of minicamp Tuesday, and he expanded his practice session to include individual work before calling it a day.

After practice, he could hardly contain his optimism.

"It gets better each and every day." said Bell. "It felt real good today. I think over the course of time it's going to obviously feel better. But I feel good. I can't complain at all."

Bell said that because of the intensity he took in rehabbing his torn right MCL, his right leg might actually be stronger than his left.

That intense rehab, he said Tuesday, was spurred by his refusal to considering wearing a knee brace once he returns.

"I don't ever want to play with a sleeve or a brace," he said. "So they just told me I have to work extra hard on my rehab, and I've done that, I committed to that. I feel good when I'm out there. I'm cutting and running full speed. I got just about all my flexion back in my knee. It's about mental things now. It's about me being mentally ready."

It's about confidence, like the confidence he showed while cutting sharply in OTAs and catching passes yesterday.

"I don't run routes until I'm here, and when I was running routes it felt even better today," he said. "The biggest thing for me now is confidence. I know my knee is strong enough. I know my legs are strong enough. I know I'm in great condition. It's just kind of mental now for me, and I think as time goes on and the more reps I do, I'll get more confident in what I can do."

"Le'Veon is Le'Veon. He's quick as a cat," said DeAngelo Williams. "There's nothing missing. You see it. The team will take all the precautions it needs to get us in the stadium on Sunday, and Le'Veon's going to be Le'Veon."

And it appears DeAngelo is still DeAngelo. The 33-year-old appears to have the same quickness he had last year, and so with each passing day questions about the Pittsburgh Steelers' backfield lessen.

"You're going to always question something that's fantastic," Williams said. "Last year there were questions on what I can do. Now they can't question that but they're going to question what Le'Veon can do, and we all know what he can do. When it's time to play football, he's going to be ready, I'm telling you."

JAMES BACK IN TOWN

James Harrison reported for the mandatory minicamp but didn't practice. Mike Tomlin was asked if the 38-year-old linebacker would remain out until September.

"We'll see what tomorrow looks like," Tomlin said.

Harrison told reporters before practice that he feels as good as he did at age 32, that he could handle 80 percent of the snaps but would do "whatever is necessary to help this team win," and that it doesn't matter if Jarvis Jones continues to start in front of him.

Harrison was then asked if he cares about numbers at all.

"I need another ring. That's about it," said Harrison. "It's the only numbers I care about."

But at the end of the interview, Harrison did throw out some numbers.

"I'm oh-for-three," he said about the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Harrison said he went to two hockey games during the season and the Penguins lost both. He then watched a playoff game and they lost. So he stopped watching altogether.

He admitted to being superstitious and chuckled when told the city owes him a big thank you for the Stanley Cup.

"I'm telling you," Harrison said. "They're all 'Come out to the game.' I'm like 'Hm-hmmm. You don't want me coming to the game. Hm-hmmmm.'"

NOTEBOOK

* Rob Golden confirmed he opened at strong safety Tuesday upon the return of free safety Mike Mitchell to the practice field, and Golden believes it's his job to lose.

"Definitely. I've been in the system for five years now. It's my opportunity now. I've been waiting on it so I'm going to continue to take advantage of it."

* Shamarko Thomas laid the hit of the spring on rookie receiver Demarcus Ayers over the deep middle as Ayers tried to catch up to a wide pass from Landry Jones. It was a crushing blow, the sound of which surprised onlookers who had become accustomed to what otherwise is touch football.

"I'm good," said Ayers. "It just got a little competitive, two guys going for the ball. You know, welcome to the NFL."

Ayers got right up and even caught a pass on the next play.

"Just being competitive and bouncing back up and getting back into the next play," he said. "Things happen when guys are going full speed. As long as we can stay healthy and take care of each other. It's all football."

* The catch of the day was a tie between Sammie Coates catching a high and deep pass from Ben Roethlisberger and Coates catching a high and deep pass from Roethlisberger.

In other words, Coates made two great catches yesterday.

"I'm just doing what I can," said Coates. "I've just got to get better, keep making plays and be consistent every day."

Coates appears to be a different receiver from the rookie who couldn't seem to hang onto passes at last year's minicamp.

"You grow from your pain, you go through your struggles," he said. "I'm just growing every day."

TOMLIN-ISMS

* On the difference between minicamp and the previous three weeks of OTAS:

"Just the length of the day. There is a lot to be gained from that. The giving and receiving of information in a classroom-like setting, their ability to wire in and deliver the detail associated with more classroom time is really what we are looking for."

* On Penguins Coach Mike Sullivan saying that all Pittsburgh teams support each other:

"Very much so. Those courtesies were extended to me. I’ve been here so long now that I am a Pittsburgher. That’s what Pittsburghers do. They support one another. They cheer for championships. The Penguins delivered the goods. I am just happy to be a part of it on that level."

Had Tomlin felt that way about other cities he worked in?

"Some of the other places I lived didn’t stack championships in the ways that we do here in Pittsburgh. It’s tough to draw the parallel."

* On what he's noticed about first-round pick Artie Burns this spring:

"He does a good job of listening to guys. That’s a good sign. Young guys with answers are scary. He doesn’t appear to have all the answers. He has questions. That’s good."

BEN-ISMS

* Roethlisberger on new-but-still-injured tight end Ladarius Green:

"He’s like the brand new Ferrari that I have that’s in the impound lot and we are just looking through the fence at it. He’s been communicating a lot, talking, very into everything from a mental side. We are excited about what he can bring when he gets on the field."

* On younger receivers who've caught his eye:

"I always hesitate to talk too much about young guys because it’s early. There are no pads on. I don’t want anybody to get a big head early when the old quarterback starts talking about them."

* On the spring performance of his backup, Landry Jones:

"For him to get that experience last year, I think it really paid off a lot for him."


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