LATROBE -- The Pittsburgh Steelers reported to training camp and then Le'Veon Bell reported to the media room to say "I want to apologize to Steeler Nation, all the fans, all the players, the coaches, for being a distraction."
The star running back is facing a four-game suspension for missing a drug test.
Bell, of course, had been in "the system" for a previous suspension and a missed test would move him along in the penalty progression.
Bell, though, wrote on social media that he expects to win his appeal due to the fact he had changed his cell phone number and wasn't notified of the test by the league.
Of course, the NFL requires such players to notify them of any change, meaning that Bell isn't expected to win his appeal, which Mike Tomlin believes will be heard in mid-August.
Bell told reporters he was notified of his missed test in March. But when the news leaked in June, Bell denied the accusation.
"I know what I said. I said what I said," Bell said Thursday. "I'm just going to let the appeals process handle itself."
Bell did have some good news. He believes a knee injury that put him on injured reserve last Nov. 2 is healed to the point that "If we had a game tomorrow, I feel like I would be able to play," he said. "Obviously it's going to be a process for me. I haven't been tackled since November so we'll see how it feels when I do get tackled. ... Once that happens, I'll know exactly where I am."
Bell said he hasn't spoken yet to teammates, but there was some frustration expressed yesterday that an offense with the potential to win a Super Bowl has been sidetracked by the losses of wide receiver Martavis Bryant for the year and potentially Bell for four weeks because of marijuana issues.
"It's tough," said guard David DeCastro. "It's frustrating. Then again, we're used to it, sadly."
DeCastro added that "I was trying to find a silver lining. Maybe it'll help his knee. Hopefully we have him healthy for the backstretch."
Bell can practice with the team throughout camp but will likely be "managed," as Tomlin put it, because of his knee.
GREEN OPENS ON PUP
Tight end Ladarius Green, whom the Steelers signed to a four-year, $20 million contract to replace Heath Miller, was put on the PUP list Thursday with an ankle injury, as was wide receiver Shaq Phillips (sports hernia), who was on the team's practice squad last season.
Green underwent ankle surgery after last season and missed all of the spring workouts, although he did attend and started his rehab.
Tomlin said he expected the rehab to take this long, but doesn't know how much longer the 6-6 deep threat will miss.
Tomlin was also asked how much time Green can expect to need on the practice field to become an effective receiver for Ben Roethlisberger.
"Sometimes that cohesion happens quickly in some relationships," Tomlin said. "Sometimes it takes an extended period of time. I don't know what it's going to be for those two. Ladarius has been very attentive in the mental aspect of the game throughout the spring, and as we get into the summer hopefully that aids him in that development. I know that he's done a good job of interacting and communicating with Ben in an informal manner, but there's no substitute for playing and getting a feel for one another and we're just not able to do that at this point."
Players can be activated off the preseason PUP list at any time. The designation is used to save a player from being put on injured reserve, and potentially missing the entire season, should that player need to remain on the PUP list once the season begins.
Undrafted rookie defensive tackle Devaunte Sigler was put on the Non-football injury list, which is nearly identical to the PUP list. Sigler reported out of shape, which drew a wicked smile from Tomlin.
"(Green) and Shaq Phillips, we're going to evaluate on a day-by-day basis," Tomlin said. "Sigler, we've got a little something special for him."
POSITIVES IN YEAR 2
Some good news is that several members of the 2015 draft class are healthy and in outstanding shape, starting with pass-rusher Bud Dupree. The first-round pick reported at 254 pounds, down nearly 20 pounds since his NFL Combine.
"That'll help out," said Dupree. "I want to be light for the conditioning aspect, so I can play more plays. Being heavy, it felt like I got tired more."
Tomlin said that the other second-year OLB, Anthony Chickillo, among others, is also down about 20 pounds since being drafted.
"I think what you're seeing is a lot of times guys come into the professional ranks thinking it's a big man's game," Tomlin said. "It is a big man's game, but more important than that it's a highly conditioned man's game. So we look at second-year player who might be 20 pounds or so lighter than they were when we first developed our professional relationship with them. It's just that these guys are showing you that they understand that the level of conditioning required to do the job is much more important than what they weigh from a size standpoint when they step on the scale.
"Bud Dupree is probably 20 pounds lighter than he was 12 months ago. I know that Chickillo is, and you can probably put Jesse James in that category as well -- all second-year guys, all have done a lap around the track, all got a base understanding of how important conditioning is, and I think their weight is reflective of that."
Another second-year pro, second-round pick Senquez Golson, who missed all of last season and most of this past spring with two different injuries, is healthy, performed in the conditioning test Thursday and is expected to practice Friday.
* General Manager Kevin Colbert and Director of Football and Business Administration Omar Khan had Vice President added to their titles.
* Tomlin on the meeting the NFL wants to have with James Harrison: "That's between James and New York and the union. As long as it doesn't conflict with the business I have going on here I'm going to leave it to those people, those entities. It hasn't been an issue for me or for us whatsoever."
So far, no meeting has been scheduled.
* DeCastro on raised expectations about the Steelers: "Yeah, I've seen that. And they should be. I feel that way, too. I feel like this is our year."
* WR Markus Wheaton missed minicamp with a quadriceps injury but performed in the conditioning test Thursday and expects to practice Friday.
* Wheaton on suspended receiver Bryant: "He's not traveling as much. He's with the right people and he's stationary with the right people, if you know what I'm saying. Just being in one place with the right people, I think he'll be fine."null