Bell’s appeal, status still a mystery

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) stands on the sidelines during the first half of an NFL exhibition football game against the Detroit Lions in Pittsburgh, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. (AP)

PITTSBURGH (TNS) – Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell doesn’t know when his appeal of the four-game suspension the NFL handed down for a violation of the league’s drug policy will be heard. He also doesn’t know if, or when, he’ll play in a preseason game this summer.

Coach Mike Tomlin ruled Bell out for Thursday’s game against the Eagles at Heinz Field. If Bell is going to play at all this preseason it will be Aug. 26 at New Orleans or Sept. 1 at Carolina, the final preseason game when starters usually are held out.

Bell is recovering from MCL and PCL tears in his right knee, the result of a hard tackle Nov. 1 against the Bengals. Bell said Tomin hasn’t shared with him any plans about his playing time in advance of the pending suspension.

“They haven’t really told me one,” Bell said Tuesday morning. “I’m just going to go with the flow and do what they do when they tell me to do it.”

Bell hasn’t missed a practice in training camp. He has been cutting on a dime and drawing rave reviews for his post-surgery movements. But Tomlin hasn’t allowed him to be tackled to the ground yet, either. That’s a hurdle he will have to clear whether that comes in the preseason or regular season.

“Obviously, it will be in mind about getting tackled because I haven’t been tackled since last November,” Bell said. “But I feel good. What I do out on the field here, I feel, is good enough for me. I feel like I’m not thinking about my knee when I’m out practicing, doing drills, cutting, running routes, pass blocking. Everything that I do, (the knee) is not conscious in my mind anymore. I’m just out there playing football and that’s where I want to be.”

The PCL and MCL tear, like the ACL tear, is a minimum nine-month recovery. The Steelers never placed a timetable on Bell’s return during the offseason, but Bell always had it in his mind that he was going to push the limits.

“Back in March when I was first cleared to run – that was my goal, to come to camp and not miss any time,” Bell said.

At the beginning of training camp, Tomlin said Bell’s appeal was supposed to be heard sometime in the middle of August. But the fact that it’s drawn out hasn’t changed his approach to handling his backs in training camp.

“It hadn’t weighed in any of our planning whatsoever,” Tomlin said. “We’re simply going to wait until a judgment is rendered and then react accordingly. I don’t want to waste time with speculation. We are preparing him to get ready for the season. The things that are going on with him in New York haven’t been a factor whatsoever.”