Mike Tomlin is staying the course with or without Le’Veon Bell.
Steelers players, center Maurkice Pounced and guard Ramon Foster in particular, had initially reacted emotionally and emphatically on Wednesday to the All-Pro running back’s failure to rejoin the team as preparations for Sunday’s regular-season opener at Cleveland intensified.
But the head coach remains unaffected and preparation for the Browns game is proceeding unaltered this week.
And that has been the plan all along.
“I’ve been very thoughtful about my words,” Tomlin explained after practice today. “I’ve been very thoughtful about my approach with the staff in terms of our planning, with the players, with you guys (in the media).
“I didn’t want to get into speculation. I didn’t want to waste time and energy because it’s just that, it’s a waste of time. I told you guys initially when we opened training camp that the two most important variables were when (Bell) showed up, and, once he showed up, the condition that he was in.
“Until that time, we were going to remain focused on those that were working and their preparation. That remains the same, that has been our approach, and appropriately so because now we’re not riding this wave. We’re preparing to play a football game with those that have been here working. I just believe that’s the right way to approach it.”
Pouncey had said on Wednesday he was “a little (ticked) off” after Bell had failed to rejoin the team.
Foster had characterized the development as “kinda disheartening.”
Tomlin was neither surprised nor affected by such reactions.
“I’m around these guys every day,” he said. “I’m surprised by very little that they do or say.”
Tomlin acknowledged such developments can affect a team.
“Whether it’s negative or positive is up to the team,” he said.
By this afternoon, guard David DeCastro was adopting a more pragmatic approach.
“We like Le’Veon,” DeCastro said. “The business side is the business side. No hard feelings, it is what it is and you have to move on, and all of us realize that. There’s no point dwelling on it, we just have to do it, got a little something to prove.
“Le’Veon’s not here so we have to go out and show we can do it without him. If we don’t do well against Cleveland, then all these questions come up, so there’s a lot of pressure.”
As for Bell, “When he gets here, the level of overall conditioning and readiness, those are equations that we’ll weigh,” Tomlin said. “Until that time, this is where our focus is.
“Nothing has changed from our perspective based on what’s transpired in the last number of days, zero.”
The Steelers prepare for the Week 1 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.