As it turns out, the Cleveland Browns are nearly a cure-all elixir for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ woes. Not only did they get back in the win column, their pass rushing exploded for eight sacks. And the Browns’ poor run defense allowed the Steelers’ running game to get back on the right track, following a big day for running back Le’Veon Bell.
The fourth-year All-Pro posted a season-high for both rushing yards and total yards, notching his second 100-yard rushing game of the season—the first since his first game back from suspension—and his first 200-yard all-purpose game. He produced 146 yards on the ground and added another 55 yards through the air for a total of 201 offensive yards.
He did so on 36 total touches, which marked a new career high by one, and saw him average 5.6 yards per touch. His 146 yards came on 28 carries, averaging 5.2 yards per rush, and his 55 receiving yards were earned on eight receptions—which is about what he is averaging as a receiver per game—for about 6.9 yards per reception.
This was, clearly, a day in which the offense ran through Bell, and even though the scoreboard didn’t reflect it, it also saw the offense run with strong efficiency, at least up to the red zone, but that is a topic for another article.
The Steelers started the game with two long, commanding drives. Bell put up 79 yards of offense on just that first drive, although it must be pointed out that it was his first start on second and one from the nine-yard line that suddenly derailed a series that seemed to be destined for a touchdown.
Bell touched the ball 17 times on the Steelers’ first two drives, just over half of their combined 32 plays, which took up nearly 19 total minutes. He also scored the team’s only offensive touchdown of the day from one yard out on first and goal—with no time left on the clock at the end of the first half, due to a defensive penalty.
On this day, Bell was not on his own in the running game. The offensive line did a lot to open holes for him, which has not been the case in recent weeks, but, of course, he also created a lot of his own offense, which is always the case. He avoided a single negative run on the day, and I believe only one or two that did not gain a yard. Some of those were runs that looked destined to be a loss, but he turned them into positive plays.
When this offense is at its best, quite simply, it is Bell that is the straw that stirs the drink. As long as they can get just a bit of push in the run game, the Steelers should be featuring him prominently and consistently. We got a look at how important he can be on a day in which the passing game wasn’t always there.