Tomlin sees big role for Steelers' Bell

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers all but made it official last Saturday when they set their 53-man roster that running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount will play in the season opener.

The Steelers only kept two other running backs, and one is a fullback (Will Johnson) while the other is a scatback (Dri Archer) who is also listed on the roster as a wide receiver.

Coach Mike Tomlin had said after Bell and Blount were arrested for possession of marijuana -- Bell was also charged with driving under the influence -- that the Steelers had not ruled out suspending both players.

Clearly the eighth-year coach publicly left that option to impress upon Bell and Blount how badly they had erred after getting charged less than two hours before the Steelers flew to Philadelphia for their third preseason games.

But there was never any serious question about whether the Steelers would suspend them. As for whether the two have already been punished, Tomlin said, “That will be between us.”

More significant in regard to the season opener is how the Steelers will use Bell and Blount Sunday against the visiting Browns.

Tomlin has said that both Bell and Blount will share the workload at running back.

But at his weekly news conference Tomlin said he does not necessarily see Bell having to accept a reduced role after averaging just over 20 touches per game last season.

When asked if he could see Bell getting 20 to 25 touches a game this season, Tomlin said, “I think we drafted him with that in mind.”

Of course the Steelers drafted Bell before they added Blount, who may be the most talented runner on the roster, and the ultra-fast Archer this offseason.

The backfield is a little more crowded this season.

But Bell's versatility will help the Steelers keep him heavily involved with offense while also taking advantage of Blount and Archer, who they will try to get the ball in space.

Bell caught 45 passes in 13 games as a rookie, and his receptions should rise this season. If Bell also averages around the 17.2 carries he received per game in 2013 he could get well over 300 touches this season provided the former second-round pick stays healthy.

One of the more interesting storylines with the season opener less than a week away is how the Steelers will use Bell, Blount and Archer.

And how the math will play out at running back.