A few days before training camp, Brown is stressing the importance of Bell, who will play this season on a franchise tag of $12.12 million after Bell and the Steelers couldn't reach an extension by the July 17 deadline. The two playmakers spoke on the phone for about two hours Saturday night, Brown said from his Live Your Vision Foundation Football ProCamp at Bethel Park High School outside of Pittsburgh.
"We need him. I need him," Brown said. "If we're going to do what we desire to do, we need every guy a part of the organization in a helmet to be there committed to the cause. He's a special piece. Obviously, we know what he brings to the team, his dimension playing football, but he's a special individual. I pray that we have him there."
What the duo talked about was "top secret," Brown said.
Brown signed a four-year, $68 million extension in February, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's deal has three years left. Bell is the third playmaker in the Steelers' Triple Bs attack, but he told ESPN this week that the Steelers didn't value his services the way he valued himself.
Bell hasn't signed his franchise tender and thus can't be fined for missing camp days. Bell has not committed to reporting to training camp on time but plans to play a full season.
Once the season begins, Brown will be flanked by Bell at running back and Martavis Bryant at receiver. Bryant has 15 NFL touchdowns in 21 games but has missed 20 games the past two seasons due to drug-related suspensions. The NFL conditionally reinstated him in April.
Brown said that "hopefully" Martavis Bryant is the missing piece but stressed that the team needs "every guy" in order to win big. "I just encourage him, support him, push him to be the best," Brown said.
Brown can strengthen his legacy with a fifth consecutive 100-catch season, which has never been done in the NFL. Brown hasn't given any thought to the feat.
"If you coming into the season worried about records, what accolades I can get, I'll stress myself out worrying about those things," Brown said. "I just stay singularly focused on being my best self every day."