Bell has changed outlook for year



The linebacker is determined to take better care of his body.
LATROBE, Pa. (AP) -- Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Kendrell Bell missed the last two days of practice with a sore biceps, but not many people noticed.
The 2001 Defensive Rookie of the Year had been virtually invisible on the field for two years.
Bell admits having "an average year" in 2003. An injury plagued him throughout 2002. Now, he's hoping to get back to his previous level of performance by recommitting himself to training and avoiding painkillers.
"I figured out I really need to start taking care of my body," Bell said. "And that's eating right and not taking so many painkillers. It kind of makes you soft if you can't deal with the pain. Football is pain and if you continue to take medication like that, it becomes a way of getting by."
Helpful advice
Bell is heeding the advice of a friend, who talked to him about the dangers of over-the-counter pain relievers. He's also down to 240 pounds after playing at 254 last season.
As a rookie, Bell had nine sacks and forced two fumbles. In the last two years combined, he's tallied nine sacks, a forced fumble and an interception.
This year, Bell's getting used to hearing the questions: Will he get it back? Will he regain the explosiveness he displayed as a rookie?
"That's all I hear," Bell said. "They want to know if I'm going to break the sack record because that's how people remember me. I blitzed a lot and didn't drop back my first year. Now the defense isn't based on just blitzing, it's more of an all-around game for all the linebackers."
Bell believes he now knows the defense well enough to remain on the field on passing downs. Brief trials as a third-down defensive end didn't pan out in the past, although he's still part of the nickel package and is learning the dime responsibilities.
"I'm feeling good physically and I'm really grasping the defense a lot better now," he said. "I think I'll probably make more plays."
Clark Haggans had pins removed from two broken fingers and practiced lightly on Tuesday. Before training camp, Haggans was listed as the starting left outside linebacker.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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