Mike Tomlin Says He Doesn't Have a Relationship with Ex-Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2019

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08:  Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with head coach Mike Tomlin  after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field on January 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that he hasn't made a habit of keeping in touch with former Steelers and current New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell.

According to Joe Rutter of TribLive.com, Tomlin was blunt and matter-of-fact when asked about his relationship with Bell: "I have none. I don't communicate with him. He's a New York Jet."

Bell spent the first six years of his NFL career in Pittsburgh, although he held out for the entirety of the 2018 season when he and the Steelers could not come to terms on a long-term contract.

The 27-year-old Bell signed with the Jets during the offseason, and on Sunday, he will face his old team for the first time.

The game is a huge one for Tomlin and the Steelers since a win over the 5-9 Jets would move the Steelers to 9-6 and one step closer to a playoff berth.

To do so, they will need a better game out of undrafted rookie quarterback Devlin "Duck" Hodges, who threw four interceptions in a 17-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night.

Although Tomlin and Bell may not exchange texts or Christmas cards, the longtime Steelers head coach knows that stopping the three-time Pro Bowler will be a major challenge for Pittsburgh's stout defense:

"Tackling him is the issue. His teammates have seen him in training-camp-like setting. It won't be the first time those guys had a chance to combat him in those ways. We respect Le'Veon. We know the type of competitor he is. We know he's going to answer the bell and be L-Bell in the game, and it's our job to minimize that."

In his first season with the Jets, Bell has not lived up to the lofty expectations placed upon him. In 13 games, he has rushed for 676 yards on 202 carries (3.3 YPC) with three touchdowns, and he has caught 57 passes for 404 yards and one score.

He is on pace for the least efficient year of his career and his worst season in terms of counting number statistics since appearing in just six games in 2015.

Bell has been open about his feeling that the Jets have not utilized him to the best of his ability this season, which may be playing a role in his down year.

With three career seasons of 1,800 scrimmage yards or more to his credit, Bell has the ability to be one of the NFL's best all-around running backs. Perhaps sitting out the entire 2018 season has contributed to him struggling to find his rhythm in addition to learning a new offense and playing behind a suspect offensive line.

Bell did show some signs of life against the Baltimore Ravens last week by rushing for a season-high 87 yards, and if he can do some damage against the Steelers' 11th-ranked run defense, he has a chance to have a big game and help the Jets play spoiler to Pittsburgh's playoff chances.