As much as he may rightly be maligned by many people around the league, even his most ardent detractors—well, most of them anyway—would never deny that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is a brilliant football mind, and whenever he is not grumping his way through a press conference, he often is capable of giving some very enlightening answers.
There seems to be very little about the game of football that he doesn’t understand, and much of what we see in the modern era, he probably has his fingerprints on in some fashion. But one thing that I would guess he doesn’t understand, at least about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game on Sunday, is why running back Le’Veon Bell only got 16 touches during the game.
The New England coach was effusive in his praise of the All-Pro running back, who, when asked about him during his recent press conference, began his answer with an “oh my god”.
“Tremendous player”, he said of Bell. “Great hands, catches the ball, very quick, makes people miss. Strong, breaks tackles. Excellent balance. Tough. Doesn’t run out of bounds”, he went on. “Bell’s as good as anybody we’ll play”.
It read like a well-honed scouting report, although with one minor exception, and that is that Bell does run out of bounds—although he doesn’t always. But he has talked this season about being smarter and getting out of bounds, and sometimes he takes the hit to the defender before the defender takes the hit to him, as he did against one Miami defensive back on Sunday.
But otherwise, Belichick’s breakdown on Bell’s game is really spot on, and shows not only the sort of mind for the game that he has to break down a player on the spot like that, but also simply the very high regard that he has for the player in question.
He is, of course, a rare talent with his equal ability to run the ball as well as catch it—really, the only truly fitting comparison right now would be Cardinals running back David Johnson, who is having quite an excellent season in his own right.
And Belichick is probably expecting to see quite a bit of Bell on Sunday, in contrast to what he saw on film from the Steelers’ last game, considering that Pittsburgh will be without the services of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
As I wrote about recently, when the Steelers were without Roethlisberger for four games last season, Bell averaged 25 touches a game, broken down between the ground game and as a receiver. And I have a feeling that we may see him get even more touches than that against New England.
That is, as long as the game remains competitive, in which case the ground game should still be in the mix, but he would still likely get a high number of touches through the air if the Steelers found themselves playing from behind anyway.