Bell finished with 32 yards on 10 rushing attempts and 15 receiving yards on three catches, a modest output for the average NFL back but jarring against the backdrop of Bell's 157 yards per game last season.
Bell, who missed all of August before signing his $12.1 million franchise tender, said Sunday felt like a normal game to him.
"I don't think I was on the field as much as usual, so obviously it's not going to be the same numbers," Bell said. "But we won the game, and that's the biggest thing about it."
The Steelers tried to get Bell involved after he looked good in practices but capped his workload just in case. Backup James Conner got four carries for 11 yards.
Coach Mike Tomlin said he tried to be "thoughtful" about Bell's workload, considering his absence.
When asked about any apparent Bell rust, coach Mike Tomlin cited the team's 13 penalties for 144 yards.
"That put us behind the chains and minimized the running game," Tomlin said. "Write that."
Bell is known to get stronger as games progress, and he showed a glimpse of that with a 15-yard gain on the Steelers' final drive that helped seal the game. That's why Bell wouldn't mind more touches in Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings.
"I wanted to help the team win, so I want to feel involved at all times," Bell said.