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
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
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
© 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
© 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.
Say goodbye to Bell
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