'We'll move on as a team'

On Wednesday, members of the Steelers offensive line spoke about Le'Veon Bell's continued absence from practice during media availability at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. 

"At this point, man, honestly, it's just a little selfish," said center Maurkice Pouncey, an offensive captain along with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger this season. "I'm kinda (ticked) off right now. "It (stinks) that he's not here."

Guard Ramon Foster added he was a "little disappointed" Bell still hasn't signed to play the 2018 season under the franchise tag with Sunday's regular-season opener at Cleveland just days away.

"Football is one of the most ultimate team sports," Foster continued. "'Pounce' gave him a 'we welcome you back' the other day and still no show. For the guys that block for him up front, that's kinda disheartening a little bit.

"This day and age, with everybody as selfish as they want to be, the ultimate team sport has turned into a little bit of an individual race."

Bell and the Steelers have unsuccessfully tried to work out a long-term contract on multiple occasions since the conclusion of the 2016 season.Bell played last season under the franchise tag after skipping the offseason and training camp.

Many Steelers anticipated he would sign at the outset of the week before the opener in Cleveland, as he had done a year ago.

General manager Kevin Colbert issued a statement on Monday that said the Steelers were "disappointed Le'Veon Bell has not signed his franchise tender and rejoined his teammates."

"We'll move on as a team," Pouncey said on Wednesday. "(Running back James) Conner looks great.

"We'll worry about (Bell) in Week Two.

Bell is scheduled to make $14.5 million over 16 games under the franchise tag in 2018. He can miss up to 10 regular-season games, sign, and still become an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

"At this point, go ahead and miss 10," Pouncey said. "At this point, it's cool, Conner's ready, he's been here busting his butt. A football team ain't defined off one person. This is a team unit and that's how we play ball and that's how we're going to go forward with it."

Pouncey was asked if Bell would be welcomed back, assuming he eventually reports.

"We'll figure that out when he comes," Pouncey said. 

"Obviously, it's Le'Veon over the Steelers.

"We're the Steelers and we're going to play as the Steelers."

The message from Pouncey and Foster was clear: Missing the preseason is one thing, missing regular-season games is another.

"At this point, it's bigger than business," Pouncey said. "Now, when it's game time and you know that you have $14 million looming out there and you're still not here and your team really wants you here; at this point, we got Conner.

"I get it, you're a little mad they didn't get things done. All of us at some point would be hurt in that situation. But now that it's game day, we have a game this Sunday, now we're all the way into the gameplan as a Wednesday practice goes and you're still not here, then it's bigger than business."

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