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Steelers notebook: Bell not grading on curve

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell breaks into the open field during practice Monday, July 29, 2013, at St. Vincent in Latrobe.
By Alan Robinson
Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013, 9:12 p.m.

Le'Veon Bell must be glad his Michigan State professors weren't so rough in handing out grades.

Asked how he would rate his Steelers training camp to date, Bell said Sunday, “I'll give myself a 5 or a 6” on a 10 scale.

“I've got so much room for improvement,” Bell said. “The game's still coming to me and still slowing down for me. I've got a lot of work to do. As long as I keep working and progressing as a player, I should be fine.”

Bell's power running has been one of the Steelers camp highlights to date; he returned to work after sitting out Saturday with a minor knee issue. But offensive coordinator Todd Haley said the decision on whether Bell, Isaac Redman or Jonathan Dwyer will open the season as the starter won't be made soon.

“Until we get into games and give everybody a shot to see what they're capable of, I don't think there's any need to hurry to make the decision,” Haley said. “The good thing is we've got three guys and they know what to do, we know what they are and they came in ready to compete. … You've got to try to figure out what they can be.”

• With Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth out with knee injuries, second-year tight end David Paulson is getting a considerable amount of work for a player who caught only seven passes last season.

“I'm just trying to hold it down until they get back,” said Paulson, who figures to start the season as the No. 2 tight end behind Spaeth, at least until Miller returns. As a rookie, Paulson said, “I just saw how tough the game is, how fast it is. I tried to use that to motivate myself this offseason to get better. … I felt pretty good about my (rookie) year but obviously there were things I needed to improve. I worked in the offseason in the weight room, and I'm trying here in training camp to get better in those areas.”

• For the third straight day, Mike Adams worked at left tackle and Marcus Gilbert was at right tackle. The two were switched at the beginning of camp. All of Adams' six starts as a rookie last season were at right tackle. Veteran offensive lineman D'Angelo Batiste, signed Saturday, worked with the second unit.

• Troy Polamalu was given a veteran's day off, something coach Mike Tomlin does frequently during camp — especially early on, where there are no games to break up the routine. Tomlin explained the absence as “a contusion to the birth certificate. It's from the '70s,” a reference to the 32-year-old Polamalu's age. Actually, Polamalu was born in 1981. Polamalu spent part of the practice talking extensively with Hall of Fame cornerback Rod Woodson, who is working in camp.

• Plaxico Burress believes the Steelers can consistently throw deep even without Mike Wallace. “As far as big plays are concerned, they're going to come. You can throw 5- and 6-yard passes out to those small guys (Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders) and those guys can break long runs,” Burress said. “It's not just about throwing the ball 50 and 60 yards in the air. It's let those guys make plays — they can take screen passes and take it to the house.”

• Offensive coordinator Todd Haley is eager see if the NFL allows the Eagles to run Chip Kelly's faster-than-fast offense imported from Oregon. “I'm kind of interested to see how that plays out,” Haley said. “To this point, no one in the NFL has tried to play at that pace that the Oregons and some of those do.” Oregon ran an average of nearly 83 plays per game last season; the Patriots led the NFL with an average of 74.

• Cornerback Cortez Allen, out the next couple of weeks following knee surgery Friday, returned to camp. The first-year starter dislikes being out now, when much of the teaching is done. “Any time away from the guys is bad,” Allen said. “Not being able to go out and compete with them is difficult. We're still in the process of getting healthy and that's the key.” Former starter William Gay is taking snaps in place of Allen, who is Keenan Lewis' replacement. Josh Victorian, who is competing for a roster spot, is getting more work.

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