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August 15, 2013

NFL: Steelers rookie Bell aggravates knee injury

LATROBE — A day after moving atop Pittsburgh’s depth chart at running back, Steelers rookie Le’Veon Bell’s status is in doubt for Monday night’s preseason game against the Washington Redskins.

Bell aggravated a left knee injury during a training camp practice Thursday. Pittsburgh’s second-round pick out of Michigan State was on the ground for several minutes while being attended by trainers after going down in a pile among multiple defensive players.

“He’ll be evaluated shortly and we’ll have more information regarding his status once we get that evaluation,” head coach Mike Tomlin said after practice.

Bell was eventually helped off the field and watched the final hour of practice with his knee heavily wrapped. Bell was walking under his own power but favoring his knee. He removed the wrap at the end of practice, slowly walked to a golf cart and was taken off the field. Bell was not available to the media.

Tomlin has run a relatively physical camp with more live practices that feature tackling and more contact than he has in recent years. But the drill in which Bell was injured was not a live drill.

Bell was held out of Pittsburgh’s preseason opener against the New York Giants on Saturday because of the sore right knee, a decision Tomlin said was “a precaution.” He missed a practice a week earlier and was limited in others over the past two weeks.

Tomlin interrupted a question about whether it was a concern that Bell’s knee was repeatedly causing problems with a terse, “No.”

Bell did not miss any of the 40 games Michigan State played over the past three years, starting the final 19. He ranks sixth on the Spartans’ career carries list despite forgoing his senior season for the NFL draft.

Despite the knee issues, Bell has been dazzled at camp with his quickness, size and cutting ability. After ranking 26th in the league in rushing last season, the Steelers hope Bell will offer an upgrade to their holdovers at the position: Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Baron Batch. The Steelers allowed former first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall to depart via free agency this spring.

Bell impressed enough that this week he was promoted from fifth on the depth chart to the co-No. 1 with Redman — a remarkable leap for a player who had yet to suit up for a preseason game with a team and coach who traditionally have hesitated to give significant roles to rookies.

Bell led the Big Ten in rushing yards last season and accumulated 4,114 all-purpose yards in his college career.

Redman also was forced to leave Thursday’s practice early because of injury.

“Just a little stinger,” Redman said afterward. “Everything’s good, just a little precaution sitting me out for the rest of practice.”

Redman, the elder statesman of Pittsburgh’s running backs corps at 28, sustained a minor left shoulder injury.

“As soon as he regains strength, he’ll be back and participating,” Tomlin said.

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