By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers knew that it was highly possible that team MVP running back Le’Veon Bell would not be healed from a knee injury in time for the wild card game on Saturday against the Balimore Ravens. The Steelers brought in veteran running back Ben Tate to accommodate Josh Harris and Dri Archer in the rushing game. Although veteran safety Troy Polamalu spent the past two weeks out due to a knee injury, his return against the Ravens is more hopeful.
In a conference with the press on Thursday, offensive coordinator Todd Haley fielded questions about the status of his running backs. When asked about the possibility that Bell could play on Saturday, Haley responded, “I am trying not to worry about it a whole bunch. We are preparing as if we aren’t going to have him. So if we have him we know we could handle that. It’s more a matter of getting these other guys ready and being ready to go.”
Bell has been a hot topic among NFL and Steelers insiders due to the outstanding performance he put together in the 2014 regular season. Haley and Tomlin both made it a point this week to say that they would not rush Bell back into the lineup, instead counting on Harris, Tate and Archer to pick up where he left off. “Teams use different words and terminology,” Haley said of Tate, “but they mean the same thing. (Ben) is in the translation period of ‘that means that’ and ‘that means this’.” The Steelers will employ a group method to how they utilize their running backs against the Ravens. As for Archer’s progress, Haley said he has developed at a similar pace as any rookie in the Steelers organization. “(Archer’s) has been a lack of opportunity as much as anything else,” Haley said. “When you are out here on a daily basis and you see him working, you know he has good weeks on top of good weeks. There just haven’t been a lot of opportunities in game situations. And when he has [entered the game], things haven’t gone maybe exactly the way that we had planned…He is a smart guy that is working hard.”
Polamalu, a Steelers staple in the Ravens rivalry, hasn’t been a part of the improved defensive secondary in the past two weeks, but defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau wasn’t coy in answering questions about whether he anticipated that the veteran would play on Saturday; he answered, “Yes.” LeBeau admitted that Will Allen had a great game against the Cincinnati Bengals, adding, “Well there’s only one Troy Polamalu…It was one of (Allen’s) better games he’s had for us, but he always plays well. I think with both [guys] in there we have some good safeties.”
Cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) will not play on Saturday, but LeBeau is excited about the progress he’s seen from Antwon Blake and Brice McCain in Taylor’s absence. In May, LeBeau had said that the team would build their cornerbacks to the form they wanted them in, and on Thursday he admitted, “I knew Blake had tremendous speed and quickness and I knew Brice had that…Athleticism is something that you need at that [cornerback] position and you never know how players are going to play but I could see that athletically these guys could compete. They’ve done a great job for us.”
The other Steelers players on the roster this week that made the injury report included: Offensive tackle Mike Adams (illness), defensive tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder) and tight end Michael Palmer (groin). McLendon has played the past few weeks with shoulder issues and is likely to play on Saturday, supplemented in the roster by Daniel McCullers. Palmer will likely not be utilized unless Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth (with a brace on his elbow) are injured or ill on Saturday. The flu bug has been traveling the country, but Adams will likely take fluids and be suited up against the Ravens. Miller and Ben Roethlisberger were away from practice, but it was not due to injury.
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Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a reporter and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied exercise physiology and sports psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. Her work can be found on