Before Le'Veon Bell even stepped foot into the Steelers locker room after practice on Monday, a crowd had already gathered around his locker. Cameras, microphones, and even William Gay joined the crowd, waiting to hear from Bell, who signed his franchise tender earlier in the day.
"I am happy to be here," said Bell. "It felt good to go out there to practice, be with my teammates. I am ready to get ready for the season, get ready for the Super Bowl.
The Steelers prepare for the Week 1 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.
"I want as many carries as I need for us to win games. The biggest thing for me is we win, that is all that matters to me."
Bell missed all of the offseason, training camp, and the preseason, waiting until this week to sign his one-year tender. He said he didn't want to jeopardize himself and risk injury during camp, but he is ready to get rolling. While he wasn't with his teammates, he was working out, staying in shape. The question now everybody wants to know, is he in football shape?
"That is everybody's concern," said Bell. "I did a lot of training. When I went to practice today they gave me my normal reps like I have been doing in practice last year, the year before that. Today it was a little different. I still felt a little winded at times. It's me just getting back used to the pace and the speed. That is the only difference. I felt good. I probably lost about eight to 10 pounds in practice. But I felt good.
"Wednesday when we put our shoulder pads on it might be a little different. It might be an adjustment I have to make. Obviously I am excited about this year and ready to move forward."
Bell said he went through practice today without any mental errors, adjusting to some of the new wrinkles put into the offense without a problem.
"I was preparing to come in and practice today and not miss a beat," said Bell. "That is what I did. I think I am a smart football player. There were little wrinkles today. I had to adjust to it. I think I did a good job of it today. I am ready."
Bell, the Steelers second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, has rushed for 4,045 yards, with 26 touchdowns, and has caught 227 passes for 2,005 yards and five touchdowns in four seasons. He is a key weapon for an offense that has a lot of fire power.
"The sky is the limit," said Bell. "We have guys on the outside who can make unbelievable plays. Our offensive line is great. We have one of the best quarterbacks in the world. The sky is the limit for us.
"Martavis (Bryant) coming back is huge. We're ready. We have to get it going. Last year we were close. This year we have to get back to that stage, and even more."
Bell didn't want to talk about the future, saying he understands that football is a business and the key is just focusing on this year.
"Football is more than just a sport," said Bell. "There are no hard feelings. I came in here, everybody is happy. I am glad I can put it all behind me and just go play football. Ready to get back to the season and win a Super Bowl.
"I feel good, I feel great. I feel fresh. I am ready to go play football."