Le'Veon Bell didn't ask for this but he's ready for this, and maintains he has been all along.
"I'm still going to go out there and play my heart out like I usually do," Bell said. "Whatever the team asks me to do I'm going to try my best to do it.
"I've been training this whole offseason for, if I don't have to come out of the game, so I'll still be energized, so I can still finish the fourth quarter, I don't feel fatigued or tired. I've been working at that and continue to work at it in practice."
The most recent results of Bell's approach produced a career-high 33 carries and a career-high 204 rushing yards in Monday night's 27-24 victory at Tennessee. Bell authored the fourth-highest rushing total in Steelers history on a night during which backup running back LeGarrette Blount wasn't given the ball.
Blount had averaged 6.5 carries a game previously, including a 10-carry, 118-yard effort on Sept. 21 at Carolina. He was released on Tuesday, and the move left Bell to be the workhorse in a Steelers' backfield that also includes rookies Dri Archer and Josh Harris, who was promoted from the practice squad on Tuesday after the team's decision to cut Blount.
"We had kind of made the decision last week that we were going to put it on Le'Veon, even some of the situational things, short-yardage, goal-line, some of the third-down things," offensive coordinator Todd Haley explained. "So we had already kind of made that decision going into the Titans game, so really it's just business as usual.
"We need Dri and Josh to be ready to go and step in when called upon to make plays."
And they'll need Bell to do the bulk of the heavy lifting at running back. Bell, 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, had said after the Tennessee game he was capable of carrying the ball "however many times we need to win."
Haley isn't overly concerned about overloading a second-year player who also has become an integral part of the Steelers' passing game.
"Thirty-three (carries) looked good (at Tennessee)," Haley said. "He was out here today (at practice), pep in his step. He's a young, energetic guy. He said to me during practice, 'Keep giving it to me, I can take it.' Until we see any kind of decline or drop off or he's starting to get too beat up, we're going to give him what we can and take from him what he can give.
"We felt from Day 1 that Le'Veon was that type of back. You kinda had a pretty good vision of what he was capable of doing. It's a long season, and we did things the way we did them for a reason. We're coming down the stretch now. We need our best players playing their best. I think it's a great opportunity for him and for us."
Harris, 5-11, 210, signed with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie out of Wake Forest on July 29. He was released on Aug. 30 and signed to the practice squad on Aug. 31.
Archer, 5-8, 173, is a third-round pick from Kent State who has yet to make an impact as a kickoff returner, punt returner or specialty back. He has eight carries for 41 yards, five catches for 4 yards and has averaged 17.9 yards on nine kickoff returns.
Haley attributed part of the reason Archer hasn't produced more to "not enough snaps in a game.
"The extra snaps for the most part were going to LeGarrette and it didn't really leave a lot (for anyone else)," Haley said. "When you're getting one or two touches a game it's a tough situation to be in. Hopefully, with a little more opportunity he'll get a chance to get his game going. If he's ready to go, which I would think he is, he'll get the opportunity."
Bell's outburst at Tennessee upped his season total to 951 rushing yards, second in the NFL to the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray (1,233). Bell also caught two passes against the Titans and is second among Steelers with 57 receptions (for 484 yards).
"During the game I didn't even feel I got the ball that much, that's the crazy part," he said. "It was kind of like a zone, a rhythm. I wasn't really banged around the whole game so my body feels good. I wasn't tired or fatigued, so I felt fine. At the end of the game when they told me I had 33 carries and I was like, 'man that's a lot of carries,' but I felt fine.
"I just want to make sure I go out there and do what I can. If they tell me to run routes and get open, third down, I have to do that. If I have to go in there and bang out a four-minute drive for us to close the game out, I'm going to do that. Pass protection, I'm going to do that.
"Whatever it is they ask me to do, I'm going to do it."