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The Pittsburgh Steelers stressed all summer the need to avoi 
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Post The Pittsburgh Steelers stressed all summer the need to avoi
So much for that.While the two-time defending AFC North champions hit the practice field on Monday to prepare for their Week 1 opener in Cleveland Christian Wilkins Jersey , All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell was nowhere to be found. Bell still hasn’t signed his one-year franchise tender or given any indication on when he might show up, leaving his teammates to answer for him.“I’m not annoyed by (being asked about) it,” guard Ramon Foster said, tongue firmly in cheek. “Who are you talking about? I didn’t even notice.”Center Maurkice Pouncey called Bell’s absence “fine” and insisted it won’t be an issue going forward.“The team is so locked in and focused on what we’ve got to do at hand this weekend that whenever he comes, we’ll welcome him with open arms,” Pouncey said. “Hopefully he’s in shape and ready to run the football.”A year ago Bell skipped training camp, showed up on Labor Day and was ready to play in the opener, though he and the entire offense looked sluggish in narrow 21-18 victory over the Browns. Bell finished with 32 yards on 10 carries in Cleveland and didn’t really get rolling until October.“I think the whole offense started out kind of slow last year,” Pouncey said. “To point out one thing at one person because he wasn’t here (for camp) is totally wrong.”Bell recovered in time to lead the NFL with 406 touches and likely would have won the league rushing title if he wasn’t held out of a meaningless finale with Pittsburgh’s playoff position already secure.The Steelers placed the franchise tag on him for a second straight spring hoping a long-term deal could be worked out. When the two sides failed to reach an agreement by the July 17th deadline, Bell offered an apology while promising that “2018 will be my best season to date.”At the moment, it’s a season that currently lacks a starting point.21<button class="view-gallery">View Gallery</button> Gallery:Dallas Cowboys: Celebrities who root for the Cowboys from LeBron James to Stone Cold Steve AustinUSA TODAY SportsThe players are off Tuesday Michael Deiter Jersey , meaning Bell would have just three days of practice to get ready for the Browns if he signed his $14.5 million tender before the team took the field on Wednesday. That’s not a lot of time regardless of Bell’s pedigree.Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team was “disappointed” in Bell’s late arrival, but will focus on preparing for Cleveland with the 53 men currently on the roster.If Bell is not available, the Steelers will turn to second-year running back James Conner. The former Pitt star ran for 100 yards during limited action in the preseason and has won raves from his teammates for his improvement as both a blocker and a receiver.“I feel like James has been in a great spot this entire camp,” Foster said. “He’s the one that’s taken all the reps. And we’ve got (Stevan) Ridley who is an experienced hard downfield runner too. We’ll be fine in the run game and focus on those guys over there.”While Bell is missing, Josh Dobbs is still around. The second-year quarterback capped a stellar training camp by edging veteran Landry Jones for the right to be Ben Roethlisberger‘s backup.Dobbs, who threw for a touchdown and ran for another in the exhibition finaleagainst Carolina, said he wasn’t sure he made the team until offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner called him just minutes before rosters were trimmed from 90 to 53.“I thought I played well when my opportunities came,” Dobbs said. “I didn’t know how it was going to shake out but I felt we prepared well and played well. We’ve just got to continue to improve moving forward.”Rookie Mason Rudolph will be the third-stringer for now behind Dobbs and the 36-year-old Roethlisberger, who has been remarkably durable in recent seasons. Roethlisberger has missed just five games because of injury since the start of 2013.NOTES: The team selected Roethlisberger, Pouncey, defensive end Cam Heyward and kicker Chris Boswell as captains for the 2018 season. … Pittsburgh re-signed S Nat Berhe on Monday and placed LB Ola Adeniyi on injured reserve. Mark Ingram readily acknowledges that his last game with the Saints could come Sunday Daniel Jones Jersey , when New Orleans hosts the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC championship game.But Ingram hasn’t given up on bucking conventional wisdom and remaining with New Orleans, even though his contract is expiring and the Saints will have to worry about signing younger, more productive running back Alvin Kamara to his second NFL contract in the next couple of years.Combined, Ingram and Kamara give the Saints one of the most formidable backfield tandems in the NFL — and an answer to the Rams duo of Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson, which battered Dallas’ defense to the tune of more than 200 yards rushing last Saturday night.It is a formula that can potentially extend the life of a rusher’s career and promote winning — two things at the top of mind for Ingram, who has become a veteran locker room leader while trying throughout his eight-year career to help get the Saints as far as they’ve gotten this season.“We’ve got a good squad. I feel like we can do this type of thing for many more years,” Ingram said. “I’m not looking just to bail out of New Orleans.”The 29-year-old Ingram, a 2009 Heisman Trophy winner with Alabama and first-round draft pick in 2011, had far from his best season, statistically speaking, in 2018. He had to sit out the first four games because of an NFL suspension stemming from the use of a banned substance.During the Saints’ last 12 games Dexter Lawrence Jersey , he rushed for 645 yards and six TDs, surpassing 100 yards in a game twice this season. He also caught 21 passes for 170 yards and one TD.Such numbers represent a considerable decline from the previous two seasons, during which Ingram eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing in each.Yet coaches and teammates are quick to paint Ingram as one of those players whose impact goes beyond his own raw stats. They rave about his work ethic, leadership, loyalty and contagious, overt passion for the game and his team.“He’s a great teammate. He cares,” Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. said, adding that it’s apparent Ingram’s teammates “respect his game, how he plays, how he goes out and gives effort.“He’s always bringing his best Deandre Baker Jersey ,” Carmichael continued. “He just has a great relationship with so many guys.”Kamara has said Ingram’s presence “frees me up” when they are in the same formation and asserts that they always have exhibited “a genuine care and support for each other,” even though they are technically competing for opportunities to have the ball.“We look at it like, as long as we both know what we need to do, the team will be successful,” Kamara said.Coach Sean Payton has extolled the value having both rushers available to help reduce the physical burden on each of them.Ingram and Kamara together “has been pretty good for us,” Payton said. “It is much more difficult if you are limited to just one of those players.”Ingram’s first few seasons in New Orleans were marred by injuries and unmet expectations. But in recent years, Ingram has become a fan favorite, and now sounds as if he struggles with the notion of playing elsewhere.“I was drafted here. I met my wife here, my children were born here,” Ingram said. “Very rarely does anybody get to spend their career in one place. So, I love New Orleans. I love this team. I love this organization.“I’ve had encouragement and support from so many people in this organization Oshane Ximines Jersey , so I just think of all those people who have helped me when people have counted me out,” Ingram added. “It’s a lot of people in this building who have helped me get to this point.”Yet Ingram grew up keenly aware of the business side of the NFL. His father, Mark Ingram Sr., was an NFL receiver with four teams: The New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers.“We’ll see what happens,” Ingram said, resigned to his uncertain future. “I hope we win a Super Bowl and hopefully everything works out.”


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