Steelers players not worried about Le'Veon's absence

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert released a statement Monday saying he was "disappointed" that running back Le'Veon Bell has not rejoined his teammates yet.

Those teammates, however, don't seem to be fretting much about Bell's situation.

"That's Kevin's job," defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said, smiling, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I'm going to be disappointed, but obviously, I would love to have him here. My focus is on this team and who is here. When Le'Veon gets here, he gets here. But until then, let's ride.

"It won't be a distraction. We're seasoned for that, I think. I just think where we want to get to, the goals we have in mind, that stuff will be under the rug. If he comes on this journey, he comes on this journey. We put him in the backseat, strap him in and be ready to go."

Bell continues to remain away from the Steelers' facility after sides couldn't come to an agreement on a long-term contract before the July deadline. Bell is in line to make $14.5 million on the franchise tag. The running back has yet to report to sign his tender.

"It's fine," center Maurkice Pouncey said. "Whenever he gets here we'll celebrate with him."

Coach Mike Tomlin echoed that sentiment when he met with reporters Tuesday.

"When he gets here, that's when we'll start quantifying all Le'Veon Bell related things, his overall readiness, the amount of time that we have between his arrival and our next competition," Tomlin said, adding he has not been in communication with Bell this week. "Right now we're just singularly focused on the guys that are here and working and have been here working and kind of building a plan around variables that we know. That's the appropriate thing."

The idea that Bell's absence would distract the Steelers was resoundingly dismissed by the players.

"It doesn't at all," Pouncey said. "I promise you it doesn't. The team is so locked in and focused on what we have to do at hand this weekend. Whenever he comes, we'll welcome him with open arms. Hopefully, he's in shape and ready to run the football.

"It's fine. He showed up last year at the same time. It's totally fine, trust me."

Part of the reason teammates are dismissing Bell's absence is that they've been down this road before. Another reason is the play of second-year back James Conner, who would take over if Bell misses games.

"If we start off with James, I think we'll be fine either way," offensive guard Ramon Foster said. "He's a guy who has worked his butt off. He's made strides. He's made us confident in him. He gets the start, we roll with him. No disrespect to [Bell], but this is a moving train.

"I feel like James has been in a great spot this entire camp. He's taken all the reps, and we got Ridley who is an experienced, hard, downhill runner. One way or the other we'll be fine in the run game. I'm focused on those guys over there. With what Conner has done this entire camp, I feel like we can make way with what we have. I'm excited about that young guy, not in the sense of disrespecting anyone else."

If Bell's absence stretches late into the week, the running back would be in jeopardy of missing the season opener on Sunday versus the Cleveland Browns.

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