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Steelers

Steelers notebook: Steady Le'Veon Bell shines in cold-weather games

Chris Adamski
| Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, 6:45 p.m.
Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell stiff arms Titans cornerback Adoree Jackson in the third quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell stiff arms Titans cornerback Adoree Jackson in the third quarter Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at Heinz Field.

The forecast says it will be cold Sunday at Heinz Field. But traditionally, that's when Le'Veon Bell gets hot.

An Ohio native who went to Michigan State, Bell has developed a reputation as a good cold-weather running back.

The Steelers are 12-1 in the 13 career cold-weather games in which Bell played. Bell's yards per carry (4.5), rushing yards per game (99.4), yards per reception (10.87) and touchdowns per game (1.2) are better in December than any other month.

“Personally, I think it's because I play the same when it's cold and it's snow outside,” Bell said. “The same way, and other guys kind of don't. I think other guys play worse when it's cold because in their mindset, when it's cold outside, guys don't really want to tackle or block or whatever it is, catch the ball. I think my game doesn't change. I think the same in the cold as in the warm.”

During a historic late-season run last season, most of it was done in cold weather.

Counting the playoffs, Bell managed 1,431 yards from scrimmage (1,172 rushing and 259 receiving) and nine touchdowns during the Steelers' nine-game winning streak last season that stretched from the week of Thanksgiving through the middle of January. That's an average of 159 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown per game. During that span, there was one game in a dome and eight with a game-time temperatures ranging from 43 to 17 degrees.

Bell's best game in that stretch came during heavy snow in Buffalo in which he had 38 carries for 236 yards and three touchdowns, plus four catches for 62 yards.

Bell's most recent “snow game” before that was at the Green Bay Packers in 2013 when he ran for 124 yards — his first career 100-yard game — in a victory.

The Steelers have won 12 consecutive December games with Bell in the lineup.

Brown on injury report

After practicing fully Wednesday, Antonio Brown sat out Thursday's session because of the toe injury that put his status for Monday's game in question.

Another addition to the injury report was rookie T.J. Watt, who was limited because of a knee ailment.

The rest of the Steelers' injury report remained the same as Wednesday, with tight end Vance McDonald and safety Mike Mitchell as full participants and Tyler Matakevich out.

On the outside

With backup outside linebacker Arthur Moats moving inside to help replace the injured Ryan Shazier, James Harrison could be in line to suit up Sunday night for the first time in a month.

“We'll see,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said, smiling. “We'll see.”

Harrison hasn't played since getting seven snaps in Week 7 against Cincinnati.

He did not play the following week against Detroit and was inactive for the first four games after the bye.

Outside linebackers coach Joey Porter hinted on Halloween that the Steelers could be saving Harrison for late in the season.

“His strong suit is when we get to this cold weather and someone is going to try to come here and run the ball,” Porter said Oct. 31. “I can put him in there, and (running) isn't going to happen. We get into the cold and playoff time, I can have him in those tough situations and go rush the quarterback and get a sack because the situation is not too big for him.”

Limited to four appearances this season, the 39-year-old Harrison had three tackles and a sack at Kansas City, a game that started the Steelers' seven-game winning streak.

Staff writer Joe Rutter contributed. Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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