Le'Veon Bell was hurt heading into AFC championship game

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Steelers star running back Le'Veon Bell was bothered by a groin injury even before he was forced to leave the AFC championship game in the second quarter of Pittsburgh's 36-17 loss to New England.

Bell had only six carries for 20 yards, and his absence was felt by an offense that sputtered near the goal line. DeAngelo Williams had a touchdown run for Pittsburgh, but the Steelers rushed for just 54 yards.

Bell knew during warmups he wasn't close to 100 percent.

''Yeah. I've been trying to micromanage it through the whole thing, just trying to keep it to myself and not trying to scare anybody,'' Bell said. ''Today, it just kind of broke the camel's back and I couldn't go.''

He wouldn't put a date on when the groin began bothering him, and he was hopeful he could stay on the field Sunday.

''I thought I could still fight through it,'' he said. ''Today, it was something weird about the tackle. It just hurt too bad. I just couldn't do anything.''

He knew his day was over when he took the ball on a draw play and couldn't burst through a hole the offensive line had provided.

''I saw the seam and couldn't hit it,'' he said. ''It was like I was running 50 percent out there. At that point, I knew I couldn't go. I was holding the team back.''

Bell was sensational in playoff wins over Miami and Kansas City, rushing for 167 yards vs. the Dolphins and 170 against Kansas City. Despite being suspended for three games in 2016, Bell rushed for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season. He added 75 receptions for 616 yards and two scores.

Against New England, however, the injury did him in.

''It sucks that I couldn't be there for them,'' Bell said, a look of disgust on his face.

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