Jimmy Smith knocks the helmet off Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell late in the fourth quarter. Bell was originally credited with a TD but on replay the ball was ruled dead at the 1-yard-line. (Gail Burton / Associated Press)
Jonathan Dwyer made sure he let Le'Veon Bell know the gravity of the situation.
Trailing by eight with a little more than 90 seconds remaining in a must-win game against Baltimore, Bell “needed to get in.”
“When I said that, he responded, ‘I got you,'” Dwyer said.
Bell ended up not getting the touchdown on a technicality, but gained something much more valuable, especially for a 21-year-old rookie playing in only his ninth career game.
Bell was knocked unconscious and lay motionless during a scary play involving a pair of traumatic head hits from Baltimore's Jimmy Smith and Courtney Upshaw that was violent enough to dislodge Bell's helmet.
“He sold himself out to score and you have to respect that,” Dwyer said.
Bell was diagnosed with a concussion, was helped off the field and did not return. The Steelers scored two plays later, but a failed two-point conversion gave the Ravens a 22-20 victory that catapulted them to the top of the AFC wild-card race while severely damaging the Steelers' hopes.
The effort resonated with veteran receiver Jerricho Cotchery.
“He just laid it on the line during that point in time because he knew how important that play was for us,” Cotchery said. “We definitely have a lot of respect for him.”
The helmet hits to Bell was so violent that it snapped the hardened plastic clip on the right side of the helmet that holds the facemask in place. A Steelers equipment man said Friday while repairing it in the locker room that he never saw that happen before.
“It was really scary,” Cotchery said. “It was a real violent play. When his helmet came off you really didn't see him moving. That's not a sight you want to see.”
The Steelers did not update Bell's status Friday, but all indications point toward him being OK.
Bell took to Twitter to provide some information.
“I just wanna thank everyone for the txts and tweets...I am okayy! thanks for all your concern, I really appreciate it!,” Bell tweeted.
Dwyer said he talked to Bell Friday when the team met at the practice facility, and said Bell was in good spirits.
“We joked around about it,” Dwyer said. “We were talking about how he sacrificed his body for the team. You forget about the game there and think about life. Thank God he is OK.”
Bell will have to go through a series of concussion-related test before being allowed back on the field. Once symptoms have completely subsided, Bell will have to perform more comprehensive neuropsychological tests by team neurologist Dr. Joseph Maroon before being cleared to play.
The Steelers have an extended period of time off since they played on Thursday. They don't return to full practice until Wednesday before hosting Miami on Dec. 8.
“He understands the significance of the injury,” Dwyer said. “He is going to be smart about it and he's going to be come back when he is 100 percent ready. If he is ready this week, he's ready this week. If it is next week, then whatever. Just be smart about it.”
Bell has been getting better every week since missing the majority of the preseason and the first three games of the regular season with a foot injury. Bell had his best game against the Ravens as he rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown, averaged 4.6 yards per carry, had a career-long run of 43 yards and caught 7 passes for 63 yards.
Bell is one of 11 running backs in the league who is averaging more than 90 yards of total offense per game.
“He does whatever he needs to do to help the team win ball games,” Cotchery said. “That play where he got hurt, that is the type of guy he is. He just laid it on the line.”
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib
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