Say goodbye to Bell

Kendrell Bell, it was nice knowing you. <br><br> With his downgrade Thursday because of the flu, you've probably seen the last of Kendrell Bell on the playing field for the Steelers.

He burst onto the NFL scene in 2001 with a playing style akin to that of a raging bull.

But since his magical rookie season, Bell has spent more time in the trainer's room than he has on the playing field.

Even if the Steelers (15-1) defeats the Jets (11-6) to advance to the AFC Championship game, it's possible that Bell, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, won't suit up again. Remember, their possible opponents in the AFC Championship game will be the Patriots or Colts and even when he's healthy, Bell doesn't play on passing downs. He also told me this week that he won't play special teams because, "somebody might try to take him out," so it's questionable that he would even need to be active.

Bell has felt healthy enough to suit up just three times this season - a three-game stretch against Philadelphia, Cleveland and Cincinnati. He split playing time with Larry Foote.

It was Foote who replaced Bell during the preseason when the latter was sidelined by a shoulder injury. But as the shoulder problem healed, Bell suffered a sports hernia that required surgery. The Steelers tried to ease him back into the lineup, but he suffered a second, and unrelated, groin injury.

It's not the kind of season wanted by a player who will be looking for his first free-agent contract. Yet Bell says he's no longer bothered by the inaction.

"It hasn't been miserable for me because we've been winning," said Bell, a Pro Bowl player in 2001 and alternate last season. "After five weeks (of being idle), the frustration went down the drain. I'm pretty sure that if we were losing, I'd be on the other side."

The Steelers made contract offers to Bell and fellow inside linebacker James Farrior - who was also scheduled to be a free agent - last offseason. Farrior accepted a five-year $16.4-million extension, while Bell turned down a deal that was even more lucrative.

Farrior responded by making his first Pro Bowl and finishing second in the voting for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Bell will enter the offseason surrounded by question marks.

© Before this season, road teams had won 11 times in the Wildcard game since the NFL went to its playoff format in 1990. Those teams have gone just 2-9 the following week, with most of those games being blowouts.

That doesn't bode well for the Jets, who will not only be playing in their third consecutive road game, but also after back-to-back overtime contests.

© How is it that many in the national media suddenly think that Ben Roethlisberger will suddenly begin playing like a rookie?

There's no way the Steelers are going to come out and throw the ball 30 times Saturday unless they get behind and have to. So there's no reason to think that Roethlisberger will play any differently against the Jets than he has in any other game this season.

© If I'm the Steelers' coaching staff, I have a tough time telling James Harrison he has to go back to the bench.

With Clark Haggans healthy, that's what's going to happen. But don't be surprised if Harrison gets a shot at rushing the quarterback here or there. Haggans' stamina may not be up to par and Harrison has been too disruptive not to keep in the action a little bit.

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