You may have read on the site yesterday that former Patriots linebacker, and now media analyst, Willie McGinest, weighed in on Sunday’s matchup between his former team and the Pittsburgh Steelers. For some reason, one piece of commentary that he chose to focus on was simply completely wrong, as he took a stab in the dark in saying that Le’Veon Bell’ work in pass protection is “not his strong suit” and that “he doesn’t do that very well”.
Actually, as a matter of fact, he does do that very well. The Steelers are actually blessed to have a stable full of quality to capable pass protectors at the running back position, and Bell’s work in this part of the game is the reason why he hardly ever comes off the field, in contrast to McGinest’s assertion that he wants to see him “stay in the backfield and pass protect”.
Presumably, to give him the benefit of the doubt, he was referring to the fact that Bell runs a lot of routes, and fairly frequently even lines up out wide during passing situations. But mistake that as a deficiency in his actual ability to block in the passing game is nothing more than that: a mistake.
We see that in every game, including on Sunday in Kansas City. Although it is interesting to note that the Steelers frequently kept Bell in the backfield early to pass protect in the first quarter, and then pretty much didn’t do it at all for the rest of the game.
It wasn’t long before the Steelers were facing third down. On the third play of the game, Bell came out to the edge to help Marcus Gilbert with Justin Houston, stopping him in his tracks, although it was a short pass and a quick play overall.
Just two plays later, after running an RPO to Jesse James, the tight end got another ball down the field, but this time instead of being a decoy on the play-action, Bell occupied Houston again. Of course, keep in mind, in this situation, Houston is as much covering Bell as a receiving threat as being blocked, but the running back was clearly a blocker by assignment here.
Later in the first quarter, on their second drive of the game, the All-Pro running back got a good pop on Dee Ford off the left side working with his left tackle. Though he threatened to actually knock the rusher into the gap, the rush was well-handled all around.
On the following play, with Houston for some reason covering Antonio Brown down the field, Bell did an excellent job of not just identifying, but picking up the blitzing defensive back, first off the right edge and then kicking inside of Gilbert, stoning the defender and allowing the long bomb to get off.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that McGinest doesn’t do a whole lot of tape study to support his positions, because if he had in this case, he would have taken a different position entirely.