Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is preparing to play Sunday's season opener against the Cleveland Browns without All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell behind him, but he doesn't sound worried.
"Football's the ultimate team sport. One guy doesn't make or break you," Roethlisberger said Wednesday. "So I'd like to say that the linemen are more important than any skill position player, including myself, on this team. This offense is more than one guy."
Bell's contract holdout continues as he didn't report to the team again Wednesday. He still has not signed his $14.5 million franchise tag.
Roethlisberger said Wednesday he is ready to go with James Conner, a second-year back who played his college football at Pitt, in the backfield.
'I think we're all excited for what he can bring to this offense and this team," Roethlisberger said. "We've got a lot of weapons. We'd like out there, but we've got guys who can make plays for us."
Stevan Ridley and rookie Jaylen Samuels will back up Conner.
Conner had a strong preseason, with 100 rushing yards on 19 carries to go with 64 receiving yards. He played in 14 games last season, gaining 144 yards on 32 carries for an average of 4.5 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, left guard Ramon Foster ripped Bell for his absence.
"What do you do?" Foster said to reporters. "Here's a guy who doesn't give a damn, so I guess we'll treat it as such. I just hate it came to this.
."..He's making seven times what I make, twice as much as (left tackle) Al (Villanueva) is making and we're the guys who do it for him."
In his first five seasons, Bell has averaged 128.9 total yards per game, the highest for any player since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, according to ESPN.
For each week he misses, Bell loses $852,941.
"We know he's one of the best in the business and he helps each week," Roethlisberger said. "When he gets here, I hope he'll be ready to go."
His agent, Adisa Bakari, told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday that Bell will "get there when he's there" and said Bell intends "to make this the best statistical season of his career."
--Field Level Media