The Juice is Loose. Following a three-game suspension, Juice, otherwise known as Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, is set to rejoin his teammates this Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs and his return could not be better timed. Coming off an ugly road loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, where the offense managed just 3 points, Bell’s return should be a shot of rejuvenation in both the running and passing game.
The 2015 Fed-Ex Ground Player of the Year, Bell brings an elite combination of patience, agility and speed that cannot be matched. The Steelers saw this last season when Bell missed a total of 10 games due to suspension and his season-ending MCL injury, averaging 93.6 rushing yards per game without Bell and an imposing 131.3 yards per game with Bell in the lineup. Although Bell’s return leaves backup running back DeAngelo Williams in an awkward-purgatory situation, Bell does believe there remains room in the backfield for him and Williams.
“There is always enough room. I am going to let the coaches put us in situations,” Bell said Monday. “DeAngelo and myself are unselfish guys. We want to do whatever it takes for us to win a Super Bowl. That is the biggest goal. That is the number one thing for me and him both. We just want to keep moving forward.”
Bell’s biggest contribution to the Steelers offense may not come in the form of the running game but as a reliable receiving target for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. With the suspension of Martavis Bryant and injuries to Ladarius Green and Eli Rogers, Roethlisberger has struggled to find a second target outside of Antonio Brown. Now insert Bell, who since 2014 is 6th in receptions, 4th in receiving yards and 2nd in receiving yards per game for running backs. Even with missing 13 games in the last two seasons, Bell’s highly ranked receiving numbers paint the importance of the running back to the Steelers’ passing game.
Bell’s dual-threat dynamic for the offense has showed why the Steelers have gone just 9-7 without Bell but 22-13 with him in the lineup. Perhaps no stretch as impressive as the 11-5 record the Steelers compiled during Bell’s breakout 2014 season. Bell made his claim for most complete running back in the NFL during the 2014 campaign with 2,215 all-purpose yards but the young 24-year old is confident his best is still yet to come.
“I am a better player now than two years ago. I want to keep moving forward. I am a lot smarter. I look back on my second year film and think what was I doing on this play or that play? It’s just growth” Bell said Monday.
Growth is not just visible on film, Bell’s return also means that growth is coming to the offense and as a result, the win column as well. Sitting at a tense 2-1, the Steelers have a message for the rest of their opponents – The Juice is Indeed Loose.