PITTSBURGH -- Le'Veon Bell hasn't lost favor with his quarterback despite missing nearly a month of preseason work and counting.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Wednesday that he has no bitterness toward Bell, who tweeted Tuesday night that he will return to the team Sept. 1. Bell has yet to sign his $12.1-million franchise tender and is training in South Florida while the team prepares for the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night.
"We will be ready for [Bell] whenever he gets here," Roethlisberger said. "We always want our guys here. But he didn't have to be here. So, we want him here because he's an amazing football player and he helps this team. So, when he gets here, hopefully it won't take him long to get into football shape."
Roethlisberger said he knows Bell always stays in good shape but preparing for the physicality of the game is something different. The Steelers will likely be off Sept. 1-3 after the final preseason game, then will begin preparations for the Cleveland Browns around Labor Day.
The Steelers could use one of their padded practices for that first regular-season week.
"He's a physical back -- it's a violent sport. The running back position takes a beating," Roethlisberger said. "So we just have to hope the other guys are ready to go if he needs to be spelled ... If he just comes back, I don't know if he'll be ready to play every single play like he does typically during the season. So we're going to have to have other guys ready to give him breaks."
ESPN reported Sunday that Bell had made plans to miss Week 3 of the preseason, and one teammate said privately that he expected Bell to return shortly before Browns week.
Roethlisberger said he understands the business side of football is keeping Bell away. The Steelers and Bell couldn't reach a long-term agreement before the July 17 deadline for franchise players. Roethlisberger said he's hoping Bell responds to a text message from him.
"There's no hard feelings," Roethlisberger said.
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey believes Bell deserves a long-term deal.
"There's a business part," Pouncey said. "At the end of the day, it doesn't look like it on (the executives') side because they sit up there in the office every single day. As a player, you try to go out there and get as much as you can, especially with the things that Le'Veon has been through and the production he's put on the football field, he deserves a big-time contract. Who in the NFL wouldn't say that?...Maybe he's trying to change things for his position, guys that come out the backfield and play multiple positions like that. Maybe he's trying to show them that hey, these guys should be paid a lot more if they can do the things that I do."