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Not since after his rookie season has Le’Veon Bell taken longer to rush for 100 yards.

The Steelers star back never played his first two games of any season in which he’s had so few yards receiving, 19.

Might he catch fire Sunday in Chicago along with the ball? When will the real Le’Veon Bell stand up?

“He’s getting there,” said guard David DeCastro.

“I think he’s there,” said center Maurkice Pouncey.

“We’re going to continue to expand and get better,” said Bell.

The question of rust or timing or whether he’s in sync with his offense should no longer be a topic because he’ll have three full weeks of practice and two real games behind him heading to Sunday’s game against the Bears.

He has run 37 times for an average of 3.2 yards per carry, not a large sample but he averaged 4.5 yards for his career entering the season. He’s caught seven passes for 19 yards, an average of 2.7 yards compared to a career average of 8.8.

The Bears have been no pushover on the ground. They yield on average 60 yards through their first two games and 3.2 yards per carry.

No one seems worried that Bell won’t be the kind of runner and receiver who averaged 157 yards from scrimmage per game last season, third most in NFL history.

But when?

“He just has to take full advantage of his opportunities,” Pouncey said. “We have to do a better job of locking on guys and making sure he can get one-on-one and most of the time he beats that guy.”
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Mike Tomlin thought he was close to having his first 100-yard game against the Vikings, when he rushed for 87 yards on 27 carries.

“I thought the only thing that our run game lacked was the splash play,” the coach said, “the 25-yard run or the 35-yard run. That turns an 80-something yard day for him to a 120-something yard day for him. So, we’ll continue, I’m sure that will come not only for him but for us.”

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That is not really a sure thing because Bell does not often break those kinds of runs. He had two longer than 25 yards last regular season, 44 and 33. He had three in 2015 of 42, 32 and 26, but backup DeAngelo Williams had more that season with runs of 55, 53, 30 and 28.

Dick Hoak, who coached Steelers running backs for more than 30 years after his own 10-year career, said, “He’s a great runner and I guess he has great speed. I haven’t seen him make the real long runs — 70, 60, 50 — and I know the game is changed a lot and you don’t see it much anymore.”

Bell’s longest run was 81 yards at Carolina in 2014. He has one other career run longer than 50 — 53 yards in that same season. Even though his coach would like to see more “splash” plays from Bell, the fact he’s been able to accumulate so much yardage with so few of them may be a different kind of testament to his ability.

Still, Bell is off to a slower than normal start for him. Is he close, as some teammates believe him to be?

“I don’t know, I really don’t,” coordinator Todd Haley said. “He was better than he was the first week, no different than our entire group … I would expect him to be better this week.”

Bell did have groin surgery after last season but says he is “100 percent” healthy and does not even think about it anymore.

“It’s Week 3, obviously I don’t expect us to have the whole playbook like we had at the end of last year to be coming into this year,” said Bell, who set Steelers postseason single-game rushing records in each of their first two playoff games last season. “We’ll keep going. We have new players on offense. We have to get all guys to keep going.

“I’m happy as long as we’re winning games. We’re 2-0, I’m healthy, I feel good. I’m ready to go.”