Le'Veon Bell heads to camp … with personal footwork coach

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PITTSBURGH — Le’Veon Bell is rounding into football form while away from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Bell has set up workouts with Rischad Whitfield — who’s known as ‘Footwork King’ in some NFL circles — starting late next week in South Florida, Whitfield told ESPN.

Bell has his usual training regimen but supplements extra workouts with Whitfield, who also visited Bell last August for a multi-day boot camp.

Whitfield, who runs Blitz Football Camp out of the Houston area, knows Bell’s natural ability and work ethic are rare, and his goal is to help him prepare for Week 1.

“I’ll do a lot of things that will help Le’Veon with his quickness, agility and coordination,” Whitfield said. “I’ll be fine-tuning his football endurance as well as doing a lot of tempo runs.”

Bell is not attending Steelers training camp because he’s not under contract and can prevent injury by staying at home. He doesn’t plan to sign his $14.5 million franchise tag until early September barring a new development. This is the same strategy Bell employed last year, when he waited until Sept. 4 to sign.

The Steelers open the season Sept. 9 against the Cleveland Browns in FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Steelers and Bell failed to reach an agreement on a long-term contract in each of the past two offseasons, casting a shadow over Bell’s future with the franchise that drafted him and watched him become one of the game’s premier playmakers. Bell’s 128 total yards per game is the highest average ever for a running back’s first five seasons since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

Bell is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency in March unless the Steelers franchise tag him a third time or utilize the transition tag, which would allow them to match any offers from opposing teams.

Whitfield said his workouts will account for Bell’s absence from camp. The Steelers believe not absorbing football contact for seven-plus months will affect Bell’s preparation. General manager Kevin Colbert said Bell was a great player in 2017 but could have been better had he been at camp to start the year.

“For Le’Veon’s case, since he’s not at camp right now, a lot of our workouts will consist of running back drills that are applicable and functional for game-time situations,” Whitfield said. “I will incorporate tons of reading and reaction drills as if he’s running the football and he has to read and react quickly with the proper footwork, body control and agility needed to get from one hole to another and make defenders miss in the open space.”

The Steelers opened the preseason with a 31-14 win over the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. Without Bell for at least another few weeks, they will get used to a tailback combo of James Conner, Fitz Toussaint, Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley, which produced 75 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.



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