of 10 months waiting on Le'Veon Bell to show up for work. They said all the right things Heath Miller 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 鈥?or at least whatever fit 鈥?with Bell's career in Pittsburgh all but over. It wasn't personal. Just business. A celebration of sorts to honor 鈥?they hope anyway 鈥?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 John Stallworth Jersey
," 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 鈥?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 鈥?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,' 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 鈥?as he did in 2017 鈥?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 Jack Butler Jersey
," DeCastro said. "I don't have to give (the media) clich茅s, 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. PITTSBURGH — Mason Rudolph guided a long first-half touchdown drive to perhaps nudge ahead of Josh Dobbs in the race to be the backup behind Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 17-7 on Saturday night.Rudolph finished 10 of 15 for 77 yards while Dobbs completed 6 of 11 for 95 yards with a red-zone interception on a night the Steelers (2-0) opted to keep several key starters on the sideline, from quarterback Roethlisberger to Pro Bowl offensive linemen David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey to rookie linebacker Devin Bush.Kansas City coach Andy Reid suggested Patrick Mahomes would play most of the first half.Not quite.The reigning NFL MVP — who directed a touchdown in his lone drive in Kansas City’s preseason opener last week — did little during two series of work following a thunderstorm that forced the opening kickoff to be pushed back nearly an hour.Mahomes completed just 2 of 5 passes for 11 yards, a far cry from his previous visit to Heinz Field, when he threw for six touchdowns in a Week 2 win last September that served as a harbinger of the season to come.Mahomes’ best play during his cameo may have been his decision to slide during an 8-yard scramble, something he didn’t do a week ago when he lowered his shoulder against Cincinnati rather than step out of bounds.Chad Henne found Mecole Hardman for a 17-yard touchdown late in the first half for Kansas City (1-1), which managed a lone touchdown a week after putting up 38 against the Bengals. Hardman, a second-round pick, has two touchdowns in two weeks and his rapid emergence could give Reid another option to play with in what could be the NFL’s most potent offense.Pittsburgh chose to give the 37-year-old Roethlisberger the night off. Rudolph, a third-round pick a year ago who is hoping to supplant Dobbs as the top backup, was given the start instead. Playing with a group that included Pro Bowl running back James Conner and star wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, Rudolph struggled early to gain some momentum.It wasn’t until Rudolph found himself playing with the reserves that he started to get going. He directed a 14-play Joe Greene Jersey
, 89-yard drive in the second quarter, a series that ended with a 14-yard sprint to the end zone by Jaylen Samuels.Dobbs started off brilliantly, hitting Washington for a 40-yard gain. He couldn’t sustain the momentum, thanks in part to an interception in the end in which he overthrew Diontae Johnson. The ball sailed into the arms of Kansas City’s Charvarius Ward to cut short a scoring chance late in the first half.Johnson, a third-round pick, ended up scoring in the fourth quarter when he made a diving grab in the end zone on a heave from fourth-stringer Devlin Hodges.THIS BUD’S FOR YOU?Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree is entering the season with a significant amount of pressure after Pittsburgh opted to pick up his fifth-year option but have not approached him about signing a long-term deal. Dupree provided a spark, sacking Mahomes and Henne and knocking down a pass.HONORING DRAKEA difficult week that began with the sudden passing of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake at age 62 ended with the Steelers making sure Drake’s legacy won’t be forgotten.Coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert and their wives attended Drake’s funeral in Gallatin, Tennessee. The wide receivers took the field for warmups with shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Shut out the noise,” the credo Drake adopted for his group for the 2019 season.Dozens of Steelers knelt for a prayer shortly before kickoff and the team will wear “DD” stickers on their helmets this season and a moment of silence was held just before the national anthem.TRAINER’S ROOMThe Chiefs didn’t escape Heinz Field unscathed. Safety Tyrann Matthieu left with a shoulder injury. Wide receiver Deon Yelder went down with a knee injury and Marcus Kemp exited with a knee injury. Linebacker Breeland Speaks suffered a knee injury in the second half and did not return. Quarterback Chase Litton was taken out in the final seconds after taking a hard hit shortly after releasing a pass.UP NEXTChiefs: Host San Francisco next Saturday.Steelers: Expect to give Roethlisberger his only reps of the preseason next Sunday when they visit Tennessee.