While the offense predictably struggled to move the ball for much of the night with Michael Vick under center after a short week to prepare with the starting unit for the Pittsburgh Steelers, after only a month or so of being with the team, there was one refreshing sign, and that was the equally predictable performance of All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell.
As all who read this site know, Bell served a two-game suspension to begin the season. In the two games since his return, he has posted 41 carries for 197 yards with two touchdowns, rushing at 4.7 yards per carry, while adding 14 receptions for 91 yards, totaling 288 yards on 55 touches.
Bell posted his first 100-yard rushing game of the season last night, though it took overtime to do so, gaining 129 yards on 22 carries, one of which went for an 11-yard reverse-field touchdown that at the time gave the Steelers a 13-point lead early in the second half.
It wasn’t always easy going on the night for Bell, who became the first running back to gain 100 yards on the ground or more against the Ravens since the 2013 season, a full 29 games ago. His first carry went for a loss of one, and had three touches in total that went for no yardage or negative yardage.
He also had several carries that gained only a yard or two, as the offensive line had its hands full dealing with a stout Ravens front seven, in particular starting nose tackle Brandon Williams, who has certainly become a handful since entering the league.
But Bell also recorded two explosive plays, both long gains on the ground that came late in the game, including one to start the overtime period that went for 22 yards and figured to set the Steelers up for a nice win.
He also ripped off a sideline-balancing 21-yard run on the first play of the Steelers drive just outside of four minutes to play in the fourth quarter, bringing the ball to Baltimore’s 36-yard line. That drive ultimately stalled at the 31-yard lined and ended with a missed field goal that allowed the Ravens to drive down the field and tie the game.
While the loss was disheartening, we did learn one key thing, and that was that this offense, and this running back, has the ability to produce against a strong rushing defense when they know that he is going to be running the ball, which is critical going forward with Vick under center.
If Vick is able to get a better feel for the All-Pro in the passing game, rather than simply dumping the ball off to him as a last resort without creating opportunities for him to make something happen after the catch, then this offense still has the chance to produce over this stretch, thanks to the unique talent that Bell possesses serving as the focal point.