Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell: Surgically repaired right knee at full strength

LATROBE, Pa. - Seven practices into training camp, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell is running and cutting without thinking about his surgically repaired knee.

And he wants more.

While Bell awaits the results of an appeal for a four-game suspension for missed drug tests -- he has declined comment on the dynamics of the case -- the fourth-year player has seen a sizable workload in camp.

"As long as my knee's not swelling or having any setbacks, I will continue to do more," said Bell, who tore his medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in November. "My first day running, March 1, I had a vision I'd be ready around this time. This is my goal to be out here ready to compete."

Getting tackled to the ground is the next step.

Bell has even tried to sneak in some reps in the "team run," which is typically reserved for third- and fourth-string running backs who take a pounding between the tackles. During Friday's night practice, Bell earned an extra rep in the "backs-on-backers" drill in which a running back must block a linebacker.

When coach Mike Tomlin asked Bell who he wanted to stop, he said, "Whoever."

And Bell looked like his 2014 self when a backfield cut left outside linebacker Jarvis Jones without what looked like a sure tackle. He has looked fluid in passing drills, even getting a few post routes from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Bell, who leads all NFL running backs with 119 yards from scrimmage per game since 2013, is eager for game action, though the Steelers might opt to keep him out of preseason games.

"I feel I can protect myself," Bell said. "Even jump cutting, if I decide I want to jump over somebody, jump in the end zone, whatever it may be, I feel I'll be able to do all that. My leg feels great."

The key for running backs returning from knee injuries is confidence and shaking the fear of getting hurt again. Bell said he dealt with that fear a few months ago, but not now. He said he trained his way out of that mentality.

During the players' conditioning test July 28, Bell set a tone by running 16 100-yard gassers while the rest of the team ran eight.

Bell said he won't complain if he doesn't get any preseason snaps because he knows the Steelers' goal is to have Bell for Week 1 -- or Week 5, if the suspension holds.

"I felt I got all my speed back," Bell said. "I wasn't even thinking about my knee at all [Friday]. ... That's the point I wanted to get to."