Le'Veon Bell spent a portion of his Tuesday testing his hyperextended right knee on an exercise bike. The Pittsburgh Steelers spent it preparing for life without their most valuable player.
The Steelers signed well-traveled running back Ben Tate as a backup plan in case Bell's knee doesn't respond in time for Saturday night's wild-card game against the Baltimore Ravens. The sight of his budding star grinding through a workout might have been encouraging, but Coach Mike Tomlin hardly seems optimistic, pointing out "there won't be any bikes on the field."
Instead, there will be the NFL's fourth-ranked run defense. Even if Bell can somehow get medical clearance, Tomlin admitted he's not even sure he's going to give the OK for Bell to play. The 22-year-old is a vital part of Pittsburgh's future beyond this weekend. Taking any unnecessary risks when there are viable if less proven options might not be the smartest way to go.
Tate began the season atop the depth chart in Cleveland but saw his playing time decrease as his production dwindled. He eventually lost his starting job to rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell and was cut in November. Minnesota took a flier on the former second-round pick, but Tate managed just 38 yards on 13 carries in three games before being released.
Cowboys lose Melton
Dallas defensive tackle Henry Melton will miss the playoffs because of a right knee injury sustained in the regular-season finale at Washington.
Melton was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a bruised right knee.
Dallas replaced Melton by signing linebacker James Anderson, a third-round pick by Carolina in 2006. Anderson spent seven seasons with the Panthers and one in Chicago before playing in seven games with Tennessee this season.
The Cowboys (12-4) are at home against Detroit (11-5) in a wild-card game Sunday.
Melton led the Cowboys in sacks most of the season, but didn't have one in the final seven games.
Ravens regain Ngata
Haloti Ngata is back on the field with the Baltimore Ravens after serving a four-game suspension for using the amphetamine Adderall.
Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, returns in time for Baltimore's playoff game Saturday night in Pittsburgh.
The 30-year-old acknowledged Tuesday that he "made a mistake" by using a substance banned by the NFL.
After a light practice Tuesday, Ravens Coach John Harbaugh was convinced that Ngata is game-ready.