- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell will play Sunday against the Vikings, barring a setback this week in practice. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will believe Bell is going to be on the field when he sees it. Roethlisberger was frank and skeptical when talking about the anticipated return of Bell on his weekly radio show.
What is most interesting about Roethlisberger saying he doesn’t know if Bell will play because of what he has seen -- or more accurately what he hasn’t seen -- in practice? It contrasts with what free safety Ryan Clark said after Bell sustained a mid-foot sprain. Clark told Bell that he had proven to the veterans that he is willing to play hurt and fight through injuries. He advised Clark not to return until he is healthy fully.
Bell is among the players who are not allowed to shoot pool or play Ping-Pong or shuffleboard in the Steelers' locker room during working hours. There is a method to what some perceived as madness, and Roethlisberger explained the rationale to the new rules, as did coach Mike Tomlin.
Roethlisberger said the veterans don’t want the younger players to get too comfortable. That message was delivered in the form of recreation restrictions in the Steelers’ locker room.
Two players who shouldn’t be comfortable with their place in the starting lineup are right tackle Marcus Gilbert and left tackle Mike Adams. Kelvin Beachum spelled each of them in the Steelers’ 40-23 loss to the Chicago Bears, and Tomlin said he will continue to use a three-man rotation at offensive tackle. He also said the Steelers will look at different combinations along the offensive line.
The Steelers last went 0-3 in 2000, and they rallied to win nine of their last 13 games that season. As daunting as the odds are of them making the playoffs this year, it wasn’t the start in 2000 that left them on the outside looking in at the postseason.
A midseason three-game losing streak is what kept the Steelers from making the playoffs. The lesson? All hope is not lost after opening the season with three consecutive losses.