On one-year deal, Le'Veon Bell ready to prove himself all over again

PITTSBURGH -- To understand Le'Veon Bell's approach to football, take an archetypal milestone for running backs -- say, 2,000 yards -- and double it.

"I can do things that have never been done before," Bell said in July, shortly after his negotiations with the Pittsburgh Steelers stalled at the franchise tag deadline.

The numbers are irrelevant. The point is that Bell doesn't set limits to his game, so much so that his Steph Curry comparison isn't mildly surprising coming from him.

This mentality helps explain why someone would show up to his first practice seven days before a game and not shy away from a potential workload of 30 touches on game day.

Bell frustrated many fans (and probably a few teammates who grew tired of answering Bell-related questions) by being absent for all of August. But if that decision was about business -- mainly, Bell's health -- then here's another business move: Bell knows this is the year to earn real money by playing a full season at a lights-out clip with a high volume of touches.

Bell has finished each of the past three seasons with an injury and started the most recent two on suspension. This is the time to break through. Renegotiating time is February and March, which will come around quickly.

Bell sounds like a player eager to put up obscene numbers once again. Consider this sample of his mindset:

On his contractual future: "I'm worried about this year and trying to win a Super Bowl. I'm going to worry about next year next year."

On missing all of the preseason: His focus is on "the games that count."

On the franchise tag: "It's a one-year deal, and I'm going to go out there and play."

On his contract demands: "I'm not asking for anything. I'm going to go out there and play on the one-year franchise that I've got."

On his approach to 2017: "I'm confident in the things I can do on a football field. I'm just worried about going out there and winning games. ... I've got to go out there and prove myself, stay healthy, stay on the field, the rest will take care of itself."

The consistent usage of "one-year deal" is Bell's way of embracing the intensified stakes. He stressed that he feels fresh after the time off, which he believes will result in a healthy season.

Bell's eagerness to perform is not a question; how the Steelers reintroduce him to football is. Even if Bell can carry the Steelers' running game off a week of football prep work, the Steelers might opt for a more conservative approach, at least in Week 1.

The expectation is that James Conner will get at least some run Sunday against the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium, with Terrell Watson on stand-by as well.

The Steelers were impressed with Watson's powerful one-cut rushing in the final two preseason games, and he's higher on the special-teams depth chart than Conner. But Conner showed flashes of being a capable backup in his limited action.

Wednesday's padded practice will start to determine which tailback is Bell's primary backup, but for now, Conner is believed to have a slight edge. Ben Roethlisberger alluded to this with WDVE's Mike Prisuta.

Alongside a playmaking arsenal of Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and others, Bell won't have to carry the offense for long spurts. But the idea is that those three in particular will bring out one another's best.

What will that look like on Sundays?

"Ask me that question a couple of weeks from now -- five or six weeks," Brown said.

By then, Bell expects to be setting a new height.