PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers spent the better part of 10 months waiting on Le’Veon Bell to show up for work. They said all the right things Nick Bosa Jersey , stressed they understood the star running back was making a business decision by opting to stay home in hopes of protecting himself ahead of a potentially lucrative payday next spring.And they’d welcome him with open arms whenever he returned.On Wednesday, with Bell’s absence for the rest of the season a certainty after he declined to sign his one-year, $14.5-million franchise tender , they exhaled.And pillaged.Bell’s teammates invaded his locker after practice, helping themselves to whatever they wanted — or at least whatever fit — with Bell’s career in Pittsburgh all but over. It wasn’t personal. Just business. A celebration of sorts to honor — they hope anyway — the last time they’ll have to answer questions about Bell’s unorthodox approach, one that included leaving his teammates in the dark about his plans.“I think we all just assumed he’d be here and it’d be the same as the year before,” guard David DeCastro said. “It amazes me in this day and age when you can tweet about things but you can’t talk to each other. You’re so connected, but you’re disconnected at the same time. It’s really interesting when you think about it from the big picture side of it. After that it is what it is, you stop worrying about it and you just move on.”Something the first-place Steelers (6-2-1) are more than happy to do. They take a five-game winning streak into Sunday’s game at Jacksonville (3-6) looking for a bit of revenge against a team that beat them twice last season at Heinz Field, including a 45-42 stunner in the divisional round of the playoffs.Bell finished with 157 total yards and two touchdowns in the loss. The Steelers cleaned out their lockers the following day, Bell among them. Despite saying he wanted to be a “Steeler for life” he never returned.Ben Roethlisberger attempted to reach out to Bell, texting him before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline saying he hoped Bell would come in and sign. Bell never arrived and never responded to the quarterback he played alongside during the first five years of his career.“He was a great teammate here, a great football player,” Roethlisberger said. “To each his own on what they want to walk away from.”The Steelers, meanwhile, will try to move forward without the versatile Bell, who played a vital role in the team’s run of four straight playoff berths. Yet they have hardly missed a beat thanks to the rapid development of second-year back James Conner. The former Pitt star is second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,158 yards) and his 10 rushing touchdowns are already one more than Bell ever put up in a single season.Conner’s success, however, also put him in an awkward position. He considers Bell a friend — and while Bell did otherwise stay silent on Tuesday he did share an Instagram story that appeared to show him promoting Conner to make the Pro Bowl — and never wanted to be put into an adversarial position against a mentor.“I never really pay attention to it,” James said. “I always go by the model ‘control what you can control Dwayne Haskins Jersey ,’ so I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing.”Those concerns are gone now. While Bell will spend the next four months getting ready to hit free agency in hopes of landing a contract that would make him the highest-paid back in the NFL, Conner’s goals are more immediate. He sat out the late portions of a 52-21 romp over Carolina last Thursday after being placed in the concussion protocol for the first time as a pro.Conner admitted he felt “dizzy” initially, but was cleared to return to practice on Wednesday and should be fine to face the Jaguars.“I feel good, feel like me again,” Conner said. “Back to normal.”And his team again looks like the class of the AFC North. While Bell’s absence caused a furor when he didn’t come in before the regular season began — as he did in 2017 — things have died down considerably over the last month. Going unbeaten since the start of October helps. So does having Conner look like a Pro Bowler in his own right.“It’s nice that it’s over,” DeCastro said. “I don’t have to give (the media) clichés, broken-record answers. We’re just going to keep getting James some more yards and keep winning games. At the end of the day it’s been fun. We’re on a roll and the season goes by a lot faster when you’re winning games.”NOTES: The NFL flexed San Diego’s visit to Pittsburgh on Dec. 2 to 8:20 p.m. EDT. The game had originally been scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. … The league also moved Pittsburgh’s game at Oakland on Dec. 9 from 8:20 EDT to 4:25 EDT. … RT Marcus Gilbert (knee) and DE Stephon Tuitt (elbow) did not practice on Wednesday. … Roethlisberger was given the day off, as is typical. Concrete barriers and chain-link fencing are going up around the site of the Super Bowl in downtown Minneapolis, where a contingent of local, state and national agencies is working to ensure that the game and dozens of related events are safe.
The downtown location of the Feb. 4 title game has presented challenges for authorities, who have had to get creative as they carved a secure perimeter around businesses and a major hospital near U.S. Bank Stadium. But it’s not the first time the Super Bowl has dealt with the challenges of a city center, and authorities who have spent roughly two years thinking about every possible scenario say they are prepared.
”We’re ready for anything that may come our way,” Minneapolis Police Commander Scott Gerlicher said. ”It’s about not just feeling safe, but making sure people are in fact safe.”
Gerlicher, whose department is overseeing security, said this Super Bowl will have the largest deployment of federal resources yet. That’s because Minneapolis has a relatively small department – less than 900 officers compared with the roughly 5,000 in Houston, where last year’s game was held – and needed more personnel.
Dozens of other cities are sending officers too, and the Minnesota National Guard has been activated. An additional 10,000 volunteers are being trained to spot suspicious activity.
Plenty of technology such as motion detectors, closed-circuit cameras and air particle sensors will be operating behind the scenes. Giant machines are being used to scan shipments to the stadium. Extra security cameras will be sprinkled around the city, and NFL-sanctioned events will have metal detectors. Teams will be in place to react to whatever comes up.
”Our efforts are to make sure that it’s a warm and inviting atmosphere. But make no mistake about it – there are tons of watchful eyes from the law enforcement and public safety sectors,” said Alex Khu, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Minnesota and the federal coordinator for this year’s Super Bowl.
Because of the dense area around the stadium, some security screening will be happening off-site. They also had to figure out how to secure Super Bowl Live, a largely free-flowing, 10-day outdoor event that’s open to the public. Meanwhile, some events are being held in nearby St. Paul and at the Mall of America in Bloomington, while team hotels, practice facilities – and transportation to and from – also must be secured.
Jeffrey Miller, former senior vice president and chief security officer for the NFL, said each host city faces different challenges. In Minneapolis, perhaps the biggest is the weather. He said security staff may need to be doubled or tripled to keep people from being exposed to dangerous elements for a prolonged time.
”That’s a challenge, and it’s a costly one you don’t have if playing in San Diego,” he said.
Miller said setting up a perimeter around a downtown venue is more difficult than setting one up around a stadium surrounded by parking lots. Architects, engineers and other experts are part of the planning. For fans, he said, there are advantages to being downtown and close to the action.
”The NFL is really good at trying to balance security needs with the fan engagement part of the equation Jaylon Ferguson Jersey ,” he said.
Miller said officials also have to take into account recent world events – meaning the possibility of a terror attack.
Joe Rivers, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI in Minneapolis, said a threat assessment for the game has included analyzing attacks around the world. He cited the May bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, the Oct. 1 shooting at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas and the Oct. 31 vehicle attack on a New York City bike path. Without providing detail, Rivers said authorities used those attacks to shape their plans.
Local history must also be considered. Minneapolis has seen dozens of young men travel to Somalia or Syria to join extremist groups over the past decade. There also has been a stabbing attack at a central Minnesota mall and a more recent bombing of a local mosque.
”It’s impossible for us to ignore the historical cases that we’ve had here and the type of threats … that we’ve addressed,” Rivers said.
He said there is no credible threat to the Super Bowl, and authorities are continuing to gather intelligence. Rivers said his main concerns are low-tech threats, such as someone driving a vehicle into or firing a weapon at a crowd.
”Not to alarm anyone, but it’s not hard to come by weapons in this country and with where our venues are located and things like that, there’s no way we can possibly secure every single floor of every single building that can see a venue or can overlook a crowd, so those are concerns, yes,” he said.
Fans attending Super Bowl events can help by staying vigilant. In addition to calling 911, people who see something suspicious can call 1-800-CALL-FBI. In the event of something like the Boston Marathon bombing, the FBI has created a website where witnesses can upload videos and photos so the FBI can gather evidence quickly.
”Obviously, the best case scenario is that we hope that we do all of this … and no one never even realizes all the legwork that went into it on the front end,” Rivers said. ”They just show up, have a good time, and leave and go home.&