PITTSBURGH -- Le'Veon Bell walked down the hallway Wednesday with no discernible limp. He stood by his locker and said, "I feel great." Twice. But then, when the Steelers running back with the hyperextended knee was asked if that "great" meant great enough to play Saturday night, he smiled and said, "Obviously, I'm taking it day by day."
Mike Tomlin said the Steelers would operate this week as if they won't have Bell in Saturday night's wild-card game vs. the rival Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers signed veteran running back Ben Tate, cast off by both the Browns and the Vikings this season, Tuesday. And even as Tomlin said he'd "leave the light on" for the team MVP and Bell's teammates said they were holding out hope, the focus Wednesday was on readying undrafted rookie Josh Harris.
"The expectation level is high. He's got big shoes to fill if 2-6 can't go," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We'll see what happens, but we've got confidence in him."
In coming in after Bell was hurt Sunday night, Harris did show off his speed in a 59-yard run. It was ultimately called back after a late flag for holding, but Roethlisberger said he thought that run had to aid Harris' confidence -- and maybe even send a message to the Ravens that they should respect the Steelers' backup.
Harris very coolly said the best thing he can do "is make sure I have a really good week of practice. You play how you practice." He said his coaches are purposely not trying to overload him, but he's excited to show he can both catch the ball, and revel in blocking well just as much as Bell does. He quietly huddled with Bell in the locker room after talking to reporters and several Steelers said although Harris is shy, he has not been wary of asking for advice.
Tomlin, meanwhile, cautioned against expecting too much from Tate. Roethlisberger said at most, there might be a package of "a few runs here, a few passes there" for him. He said Tate stood up in the Steelers' team meeting room this morning and told his new teammates he's "just here to help us win."
Roethlisberger said he didn't know how -- or if at all -- the Steelers' offense would change if Bell is indeed out and the running back group wears these new faces. But he was reminded that the last time the Steelers and Ravens met, Nov. 2, the Steelers won by 20. And as a team only had 55 rushing yards. So maybe, as Tomlin said Tuesday, losing Bell isn't the end-all.