It’s not very difficult to find effusive praise for the likes of wide receiver Antonio Brown or running back Le’Veon Bell. And the Pittsburgh Steelers are very fortunate to have such talents, which make up the bedrock of their Super Bowl aspirations in 2016 and beyond for however long they are in black and gold.
But they, of course, have to have uniquely excellent traits in their game in order to account for their tremendous success, with Brown having been named an All-Pro for three straight years, and Bell receiving the distinction in 2014, missing this past season after being limited to just six games.
Yesterday, Mike Renner published a list for Pro Football Focus of “The NFL’s 10 Most Unstoppable Forces”, detailing specific traits of 10 players around the league that help put them in an elite category, and both Brown and Bell were featured on the list, one of two teammates to make the list alongside Rob Gronkowski and his catch radius paired with Tom Brady’s decision-making acumen.
Highlighted for Brown, second on the list behind only J.J. Watt’s swim move, is his route running, with Renner writing that “no one gets open more than the Steelers’ Antonio Brown”, citing that fact as the reason that he “had led the NFL in receptions each of the past two seasons, while also catching over 70 percent of his targets each year”. He also pointed out that Brown “made one of the top corners in the league, Chris Harris, Jr., look absolutely silly”.
Bell was recognized in the eighth spot on the list, though I wonder if that might not have been higher had he been able to actually play a full season last year, in spite of the fact that he was still tremendously productive on the ground in the six games that he did manage to play.
The trait that is highlighted for the Steelers’ fourth-year back is not his patient running style, but rather his complementary trait, the deadly plant leg that pairs nicely for the rapid slow-to-fast pace that allows him to burst through narrow holes for big gains.
Renner unfortunately caters to the myth that Bell lost 20 pounds between his rookie season and his second season and cited that as the catalyst for his “ability to stop and start on a dime”, though it is hard to deny that he took a major leap forward in his game in year two.
He writes, “even at 220 pounds, Bell still routinely makes defenders look silly in the open field when he sticks his foot in the ground. it’s a shame he got hurt when he did, as his 69.6 elusive rating last season was on pace to be the highest of his career”.
The Steelers are certainly fortunate to have the luxury of having players such as Brown and Bell who are capable of not only making up so much of the team’s offense, but of making their own offense for themselves by boasting elite traits that help them win their one-on-one matchups.