The Pittsburgh Steelers managed to get back to their winning ways on Monday night, but it was certainly tough sledding that required plays made from all three phases of the game to set them up with the game-winning opportunity inches away from the goal line with five seconds left.
And as they should have done, the Steelers put the ball in the hands of their best player, running back Le’Veon Bell. In fact, they wasted no time doing so, aligning Bell behind the center to take the direct snap out of the wildcat formation.
The San Diego Chargers knew it was coming. The Steelers lined up in the formation before the home team took a timeout before the critical play. And they had every opportunity to stop it, too, but the All-Pro back would not be denied, as he reportedly vowed during practice.
While the final play of the game was certainly remarkable for the effort alone that it took for Bell to stay upright through traffic long enough to cross the goal line by stretching out while in the process of being tackled, however, it was just one yard on the ground of 111 that he had on the night.
It is the third game in a row, of three that he has played, in which he has easily cleared the 100-yard mark from scrimmage, and he has done so just on the ground in each of the past two weeks, going for 129 in the previous game and, as mentioned, 111 last night, none more critical than that last yard.
It’s fair to say that the third-year back has picked up where he left off last year, already at 302 yards on the ground on 62 carries, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, and he has put the ball in the end zone in each game played this season.
In fact, after a slow start in converting yards into points last season, Bell has 12 rushing touchdowns in his last nine games dating back to last season, with 13 touchdowns in total, including on receiving touchdown in that span. Of course, he failed to finish the season finale a year, the only game since Week 10 of the 2014 season in which he has not gotten into the end zone.
Of course, as we noted last week, Bell has come to a virtual standstill when it comes to receiving out of the backfield due in large part to the fact that quarterback Mike Vick has not been able to put him in the right positions to make plays, or to simply give him the ball.
Bell had seven receptions for 70 yards in his first game back, most of it coming before Vick was in the game. In the past two games with Vick, he has just 35 receiving yards on 11 receptions. The sooner Ben Roethlisberger gets back, the better for Bell, in that respect.
But the Steelers are fortunate to have a running back as amenable to the situation as Bell—although he did give up a pressure and draw a hold in pass protection—who has clearly kept this team alive on offense while Vick tries to find his bearings on the fly in this system.