PITTSBURGH -- Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell was "100 percent" convinced a few weeks ago that teammate Antonio Brown would be back from his calf injury by the time the team kicks off in the divisional round of the playoffs next weekend.
He hasn't backed down from that statement.
"Yes, I do," Bell said when asked if he still felt that way. "I know how hard he works. And I know all the work and the time ... he's been putting in and I'm confident he'll be back."
Bell smiled when asked if he had a hunch versus speaking to the All-Pro wide receiver or seeing him run.
"It's just a hunch," Bell said repeatedly, with a smile that indicated he might know something more.
Brown has posted his progress on social media following the calf tear that sent him to the hospital before the second half of the team's loss to the New England Patriots on Dec. 17. A post on Dec. 22 showed him rolling around on a "one leg scooter for Christmas." He posted another video of himself taking his first steps in a week up his driveway on Dec. 24. In a video posted on Jan. 1, he was running on a treadmill.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Brown would officially be questionable on the injury report if the team had to play this week. Brown's teammates didn't seem to have a doubt.
"Oh, heck no," said Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey. "He wanted to come back to practice [last week], and they had to hold him back. That guy is such a competitor that we know he's working every single day. It would be nice to have him out there last week, but it doesn't really matter. He's getting his body right, and he's going to be ready to play."
Pouncey said the team grew more confident about Brown's chances to return when he progressed to running but couldn't say why Brown would be able to recover so quickly other than that "some people are just gifted. They heal faster than others."
Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree had a theory.
"He wants to win a ring," Dupree said. "He wants everything to go as planned even though he's got a lot on his mind right now. AB is the best receiver in the world, arguably the MVP of the league after missing two or three games. AB, he's great, and great players want to be in great moments."