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As NFL Network's Ian Rapoport first reported this morning, the Steelers star running back had surgery Monday to fix a core muscle injury. The normal timeline for recovery is approximately six weeks.
Bell posted a photo of himself in a hospital gown on Snapchat earlier in the day, with little other context.
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra notes, the news of Bell's surgery comes weeks after we thought the running back had avoided going under the knife.
Bell missed most of the Steelers' loss to the New England Patriots due to a groin injury. While making the rounds on Radio Row during Super Bowl week, Bell admitted he had been dealing with the injury before the AFC Championship game. The NFL is investigating Bell not being listed on the team's injury report during the playoffs. The investigation remains open, an NFL spokesman confirmed to Patra.
The Steelers placed the franchise tag on the dual-threat running back this offseason. The sides have until July 15 to hammer out a multi-year deal, or Bell will play on the $12 million-plus tag.
Patra went on to point out the timeframe for Bell's recovery should make him available for organized team activities and training camp, and allow the Steelers time to ensure he's fully rehabbed before the deadline for a long-term solution hits.
But fantasy owners can expect the team to take a cautious approach during OTAs and perhaps even through August.
Remember, Bell finished the 2016 regular season with 261 carries for 1,268 yards, a 4.9-yard average, and seven touchdowns. He also had 75 receptions for 616 yards, and 8.2-yard average, and two touchdowns. He seemed to grow stronger as the season went on. Despite playing in just four of five possible games in December and January, Bell racked up an NFL leading 569 rushing yards during the span and ran for four touchdowns. He had 18 receptions for 179 yards, a 9.9-yard average, and one touchdown catch.
Bell had 748 total yards from scrimmage during that stretch -- which also led the NFL. He averaged 5.8 yards every time he touched the ball while posing a league-leading 187.0 yards from scrimmage per game during that span.
Bell set a Steelers’ single-game record when he rushed for 236 yards on a career-high 38 carries in the 27-20 win over the Bills. Bell also had the hat trick, scoring three touchdowns for the first time in his career and he tied a team record with the three rushing scores. Bell added four receptions for 62 yards, for a total of 298 yards from scrimmage, ranking second in team history in yards from scrimmage in a single game.
Bell single-handedly outgained the Bills with his 298 yards from scrimmage, compared to the Bills 275 yards of total offense.
So we all have a pretty solid understanding of what Bell is capable of -- apparently even working at something less than full speed.
So the question becomes: Will this surgery, subsequent recovery and the potential for a cautious approach by the Steelers be enough to convince fantasy owners that Arizona's David Johnson and/or the Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott better picks heading into September?
Time will tell and we'll all be watching Bell's progress closely in coming weeks.
But with Johnson (current ADP No. 1 overall), Elliott (current ADP No. 2 overall) and Bell (current ADP No. 5 overall, with wideouts Odell Beckham and Mike Evans going between Bell and the first two backs) -- clearly standing apart from the rest of running backs in early mock drafts, this surgery could drive Bell's price down a bit more.
If so, somebody is going to get a bargain with Bell, who went later than he otherwise would have due to suspension last summer, again this year.