Le'Veon Bell, Heath Miller near return

Updated: September 19, 2013, 5:56 PM ET
By Scott Brown | ESPN.com

PITTSBURGH -- Heath Miller isn't the only Pittsburgh Steelers player who may be close to returning from an injury.

Running back Le'Veon Bell was a full participant in practice Thursday, marking the first time the rookie has gone through drills since suffering a mid-foot sprain in an Aug. 19 preseason game.

The Steelers had been giving Bell every opportunity to win the starting job before knee and foot injuries sidetracked him, and they need the former Michigan State star more than ever. The Steelers have rushed for 75 yards in two games and haven't been able to establish any consistency in their ground attack.

Pittsburgh is likely to start Felix Jones on Sunday night against the Bears, though Bell could be part of the equation if his foot responds favorably to Thursday's practice.

"I feel like my foot is getting real close," said Bell, a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft, in which he was the second running back taken overall. "I just want to keep moving forward and make sure I don't take a step backwards."

Miller practiced without limitations for the second consecutive day Thursday. The veteran tight end had said he wanted to see how his right knee responded the morning after going through a full slate of drills Wednesday. That Miller didn't suffer a setback roughly nine months after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery improves his chances of playing Sunday against the Bears.

"It's always great to see Heath," Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. "We're seeing him more and more, so that's a good thing."

Miller, the Steelers' 2012 MVP, would provide a major boost to an offense that has scored just two touchdowns through two games. Haley has come under fire for the offense's struggles, and he said improvement has to start with a running game that is ranked No. 31 in the NFL.

"To have an efficient run game we need to do a better job across the board because one breakdown will get you 3 yards a carry instead of 4 and 5," Haley said. "We have to improve. I'm not happy with anything right now."

Bell should help the Steelers' ground game, but he reiterated on Thursday that he won't return until his foot is fully healed.

"I want to make sure that when I go out there I want to be able to actually help the offense," Bell said. "I just want to go in there and compete."

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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