Gaggle of Rottweiler puppies kept Le'Veon Bell smiling during suspension

PITTSBURGH -- Le’Veon Bell couldn't take the field with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first three games this season, but he did coach an 11-man team while he waited.

His backfield tandem: His two rottweilers, Buddy and Beautiful.

The rest of the squad: The couple's litter of nine puppies.

Add the family boxer named Baby that often visits Pittsburgh with his mother, and Bell was toting the leash much more than the rock for the last two months.

Life without football got a little easier as Bell served a three-game suspension for missed NFL drug tests.

"They are always happy to see you, no matter what you go through," Bell said. "I think I had about 14 dogs in my house at one point."

make sure youu follow my snap to see Nala and the rest of her siblings 😍😍😍 l_bell24

A video posted by LeVeon Bell (@steelerrb26) on

Bell has regained his spot as arguably the game's most complete running back with 332 total yards in his first two games back with the team. But well before he became a football star at Michigan State, Bell was a dog guy.

When Bell's not making rap records, his favorite hobby is playing with 3-year-old Buddy and 1-year-old Beautiful inside the house or at a nearby park. He got the first dog just before leaving Michigan State and getting drafted by the Steelers in the second round of the 2013 draft.

When Buddy and Beautiful expanded the family, the cuteness tempted Bell to keep at least a few puppies. Eventually, he sold a few to family members and friends with who he could watch them grow up. He also connected with a few buyers on social media to share in the adorableness.

How the puppies came about was "kind of an accident," he said, but he savored the litter experience. Dogs remind him of his teenage years in Ohio, where his 14-year-old German Shepherd mix is "still kickin' it" and tries to jump the kitchen gates every time the doorbell rings.

"Growing up, my uncle used to always have dogs, and we always had a dog growing up," Bell said. "I couldn't remember a time when I never had a dog. It was part of the family. So once I actually got old enough, I got a dog in college, then I felt he needed a friend so I got another dog. They just started adding up from there."

The thought of a star running back running a classified ad for puppies draws a chuckle, but Bell basically did just that, posting on Instagram about eight weeks ago, "my baby girl. She looks just like Beautifull....lemme know if youu want puppies.” About 800 comments later, Bell had more than a few offers.

Bell said he and his family successfully found stable homes for all the dogs. “I couldn’t keep all nine of those puppies.”

The puppies came during a delicate time in Bell’s football career. News of his looming four-game suspension surfaced in late July, followed by an appeal process that lasted about a month. Bell, who has started back-to-back years on suspension, got his term reduced to three games.

Bell wasn’t trying to endear himself to a frustrated fan base by posting puppy videos. He simply likes to document his life on social media, and puppies are a big part of that.

Bell values a dog’s lovable nature, dedication and, in Baby’s case, “crazy” athleticism. Bell considers Baby his dog but his mother can’t let him go, he jokes. A young Bell always wanted a boxer ever since he saw a video of one running up a wall. He’s here to report Baby can run up a wall.

But Bell has a soft spot for Rottweilers, whom Bell says are more sweet-natured than the perception allows.

“Rottweilers are really protective,” Bell said. “They always want to be around you and they are really cuddly. They are good around family.”

Bell plans to be equally protective of his career, vowing to avoid trouble with the NFL.

He’s got games to win, and slobbering mouths to feed.