Clark: Bell 'needs to get himself healthy'

Le'Veon Bell received some advice from veteran safety Ryan Clark following the rookie running back’s abbreviated NFL debut Monday night.

Clark told Bell, who sprained his right foot in the first quarter against Washington, to make sure he is fully healthy before he returns to the playing field.

It was the same thing Clark told Bell during training camp after the latter went down the second time with a left knee injury.

“I told him ‘I understand that you want to prove to us that you’re tough, that you want to prove to us that you’re durable, that you’re willing to go out and do whatever it takes to help us, but also understand that we’re not going to win the Super Bowl this week. We weren't going to win it last week,'" said Clark, one of the team leaders. “He’s proven to me that he wants to be out there, that he wants to try to fight through injury. Now he needs to get himself healthy.”

Bell’s health issues have been perhaps the most mystifying development of the Steelers’ preseason. The 6-foot-1, 244-pounder was a monument to durability at Michigan State as he didn’t miss a game -- or a practice, Bell has said -- in three seasons and logged a whopping 382 carries in 2012.

Bell has already been ruled out of the Steelers’ preseason game Saturday night against the Chiefs. It is the second preseason game he will miss, and there is a question as to whether Bell will be healthy enough for the Sept. 8 season opener against Tennessee.

Bell could have sustained the dreaded mid-foot sprain, and the Steelers are waiting on a second opinion following an MRI taken Tuesday.

What is key as Bell deals with another injury is making sure the second-round draft pick stays engaged in meetings and at practice. Isaac Redman said he plans on peppering Bell with questions during practice to make sure the latter doesn’t lose focus.

“The mental reps are the biggest key when you’re injured, to stay in practice, because a lot of guys, especially younger guys, when they get hurt they tend to kind of drift away and become a guy that coaches always have to talk to and make sure you’re paying attention at practice,” said Redman, who hopes to play Saturday night after missing the Washington game with a shoulder injury. “As an older guy you try to help them not get into that habit.”

Bell had been one of the stars of training camp, and one thing Clark has stressed to the 48th overall pick of the 2013 draft is to keep his eye on the big picture.

“I’ve watched him run the ball in practice enough to know that he can be effective,” Clark said. “I don’t know what the situation is with this injury but I want him to be fully healthy and be at full speed when he comes back because you don’t want these things to continue to nag him not only this year but throughout his career. He has an opportunity to have a long football career. It’s not all about today.”