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Steelers

No sign of Le'Veon Bell as Steelers conduct meetings, film review

Joe Rutter
| Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, 3:00 p.m.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) runs the ball past Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) runs the ball past Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)

The Pittsburgh Steelers opened their bye week doing what they normally do on a Monday — attending team meetings and conducting film review.

And, as has been the case the entire season, running back Le’Veon Bell didn’t take part in it.

Bell, who told ESPN he would end his holdout during the bye, was not in the locker room during the 45 minutes open the media prior to the start of meetings.

A chair in front of Bell’s locker was decorated to make it look like the running back was present, but it was merely a decoy for reporters.

“I don’t think anybody has gotten word, and we will keep moving,” defensive tackle Cameron Heyward said.

“I haven’t heard from him,” tackle Marcus Gilbert said. “If he does show up, I’ll be excited to see him.”

If it is true Bell will report this week, he will have two more opportunities before the players receive a four-day break. The Steelers have practices Tuesday and Wednesday.

Teammates have said they are prepared to welcome back Bell, who has lost $5.13 million in salary by staying away.

“Yeah, it’s a business, man,” guard David DeCastro said. “We all have a job to do, so you know, it will be good. We will be fine, looking forward to getting back to work.”

Before Bell can practice with the team, he must pass a physical. If the Steelers ask for a two-week roster exemption, Bell must agree to compensation during that period. Then, he must sign his franchise-tag tender.

The tender was worth $14.544 million at the start of the season, but Bell has forfeited $855,000 in pay for each week he has remained away from the team.

If Bell reports this week, he would have extra practice time — the Steelers have a bonus workout upon returning Monday from the bye — to get into condition to play in a game. Bell skipped all voluntary offseason workouts and training camp, just like he did in 2017 when he reported in time to play in the season opener.

The Steelers conclude the first half of the season with division games against the Cleveland Browns and at the Baltimore Ravens.

In Bell’s absence, James Conner has exceeded 100 yards rushing three times, including each of the past two games when he helped the Steelers defeat the Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals to improve to 3-2-1.

Conner has 453 yards rushing, seven touchdowns and is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He also has 26 catches for 257 yards.

Bell had four 100-yard games in 2017, when he rushed for 1,291 yards with nine touchdowns and a 4.0-yard average.

Teammates have lobbied for Conner to remain the starter whenever Bell shows up. They also believe Bell has a role on the team.

“We’ll figure it out however it all shapes up,” Gilbert said. “We all know (Bell) is a player that can’t be replaced. He’s a special player. Any guy that we put in there is a different type of player. He and James are different style running back, and I think they’ll complement each other really well.”

DeCastro cited the New Orleans Saints, who utilize multipurpose threat Alvin Kamara and former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.

“I like that style,” DeCastro said. “I think it’s a hard position to have one. I think Le’Veon has done a tremendous job of being the workhorse. There’s something to be said for that. It’s hard to do. It’s impressive what he’s done, but to have two guys in there that are always going to be fresh to be able to pound on a defense … it’s a good system to have, and we will see how it goes.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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