One of the “silver-linings” regarding the four-game suspension (later reduced to three upon appeal) for Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell to start the 2016 season was that it would give his injured knee even more time to heal.
Bell suffered a torn MCL in a game against the Bengals in Week 8 of the 2015 season, and there was concern that he wouldn’t be back to 100 percent for the start of the regular season.
Turns out, if his showing in his first (and, probably, only) preseason action of the summer on Friday night was any indication, Bell’s knee is not only 100 percent healed, but he already appears to be in mid-season form.
In Pittsburgh’s 27-14 victory over the Saints at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, Bell handled the ball eight times (three rushing, five receiving) for a grand-total of 56 yards. Not numbers that stand out when you just view the box score.
Protest: Colin Kaepernick rocks the boat on race
Highlights: The top plays from Preseason Week 3
Fantasy Football: Three deep zero RB sleepers
Fantasy Football: DFS picks for Friday’s preseason games
But if you actually watched the game Friday night, you saw the same shiftiness, the same elusiveness that’s been on display since the Steelers made Bell their second round pick out of Michigan State in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Bell is not a speed demon, so he’ll never be a breakaway threat, but it was nice to see that the essence of what made him the special back that he was before the injury is about as fully intact as his surgically-repaired MCL.
Yes, Bell is clearly in mid-season form; it’s just unfortunate that he won’t make his debut until the first quarter mark of 2016.
Therein lies the angst so many fans had for the talented, young running back when word first surfaced in July of his pending four-game suspension for missing several drug tests this offseason.
Most people weren’t angry for any other reason than the fact that he was/is one of the most dynamic and versatile offensive weapons in the NFL. With Bell in the lineup, an already potent Steelers offense is damn-near unstoppable, as evidenced by the two juggernaut-like scoring drives Pittsburgh executed against the Saints while Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Bell were all on the field at the same time.
The good news for the Steelers and their fans is, as the team proved last year when Bell was suspended for the first two games and injured for the last eight, the offense is still pretty darn formidable without him in there.
When Bell finally makes his debut in the fourth game, it’s going to be a sight to see as it pertains to the Steelers’ wide-array of offensive weapons.
It’s just too bad Bell couldn’t have been more reliable than his fast-healing MCL this past offseason.