Over the course of the past three years, I have written a lot about the unique talent that is Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, and I’m not about to grow tired of doing so anytime soon, I don’t think—unless maybe he is playing in a different uniform next season.
But for now, I’m still going to take the time to admire his ability to create plays for himself when most other running backs would get stuck in the mud, including his backup, DeAngelo Williams. His unique combination of traits, and the excellence of proficiency of each, allows him to turn negative plays into positive ones, and there were some examples of that on Sunday.
Even a simple five-yard run can be worth taking a second look at, as one early in the second quarter. On this play, Bell displays his ability to bait the defense, closing in close to the line of scrimmage and forcing the defenders to commit one way, while patiently waiting for the opening. He then planted his foot and turned upfield in a hurry, finally turning his body to blunt the point of impact.
My favorite carry of the game came later in the quarter on a 12-yard gain off left tackle. Things did not exactly pan out the way they were designed, including the kick-out block from the pulling guard giving way. With the defensive backs and now-freed linebacker clamping down on him near the line of scrimmage, Bell used his plant foot for an impressive change-of-direction burst to get going vertically upfield, leaving all the defenders behind. He then proceeded to spin through a tackler for an additional four yards.
In the third quarter, the All-Pro ball carrier took a draw run up the middle for what was marked as nine yards, but was really closer to 11. The aspect of this play that I want to point out, however, is the finish, as he displayed great anticipation at the end of the run to spin out of hard contact. Moves like that are going to extend his longevity.
As a receiving threat, Bell obviously had a big game, but an incomplete pass was one of the biggest moments of the game on third and two from the 36-yard line. After the quarterback escaped pressure, Bell looked to fade open to the left, but as he turned to get upfield, the ball was already in the air, and the result was an incompletion. This is a product of a lack of reps with Landry Jones, as he talked about after the game, with the lack of anticipation of how he likes to operate in a scramble drill.
Late in the game, he recorded another reception, however, this one on fourth and three. Flexing out wide, with a linebacker on him, Bell put a move on him with a false step inside at the line of scrimmage, working to his outside and spinning back inside to sit between two defenders to make the reception for a conversion that he made look a lot easier than it was.
If the offense is ever actually up to its full potential in terms of health and execution, then Bell can be a lot deadlier than he already is, because right now, he is creating a lot of his own action. Just imagine if they were able to set him up for more opportunities for success.