It's just halfway through Le'Veon Bell's first preseason as a pro, likely a small and insignificant blip on the radar of his NFL career as a whole.
But ... the injury issues are starting to get frustrating.
Bell, a rookie second-round pick expected to be the Steelers' workhorse running back, can't stay on the field so far. He missed the preseason opener with a knee injury. He re-injured the knee in a non-contact drill last week. He did play Monday night against the Redskins, but after 9 yards on four carries, he was back on the sideline, injured again. This time, it was a foot injury. He lasted one series. Most of the news surrounding Bell over the last month has been health updates.
And now, unless the Steelers want to push him through these injuries to see more of their rookie running back in preseason action, Bell will enter his first regular season with four carries of live NFL game action. Can Pittsburgh trust Bell as its starter after having seen so little of him against NFL competition?
The diagnosis was that Bell had a mid-foot sprain and will undergo further tests, and his tweet after the game sounded like it wasn't a day-to-day injury:
I favorite all the negative tweets...I'll NEVER forget, that's for sure...I'll come back and be stronger than before
— LeVeon Bell (@L_Bell26) August 20, 2013
The injuries could be bad luck, but it's worth mentioning that last year Bell had an astonishing 382 carries at Michigan State. Add in receptions, and he had 414 touches. That came in just 13 games. In his final four college games, Bell had 36, 32, 35 and 32 carries. Not like the Michigan State coaching staff has an obligation to not run Bell into the ground before he made any money off football, but yeesh.
Part of a NFL running back's value is measured by his ability to stay on the field. Maybe Bell will be the workhorse the Steelers were hoping for with that second-round pick they invested. But to be a workhorse, Bell will have to last past four carries when the games start to count.