Bell set franchise single-game rushing-yardage records in both postseason games this season. He racked up 167 yards in a victory over the Miami Dolphins in the AFC wild-card round and bettered that with 170 in last Sunday's victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round.
"Bell is a special guy," New England coach Bill Belichick told reporters. "He is really hard to tackle. Great runner, good vision, very patient, and he has a real good burst through the hole."
Bell was one of three Steelers who didn't practice on Thursday. The others were linebacker James Harrison (shoulder, triceps) and tight end Ladarius Green (concussion, illness).
Linebacker Vince Williams (shoulder) was a limited participant.
The Steelers have been hit with the flu bug this week and all four players who missed Wednesday's session due to illness returned on Thursday: receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, kicker Chris Boswell, center B.J. Finney and third-string quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
"I'm just thankful that I've stayed out of the line of fire," Tomlin said. "We're not making excuses. There won't be. We'll be there, we'll be ready to play. This is just part of normal things that happen over the course of a season."