Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has shown that he was built for the bright lights of the NFL postseason. This is Bell’s first taste of postseason play, though you would not be able to tell by watching him. In his first game, Bell broke the Steelers’ single game post season rushing record and followed this up in his second game by breaking his week-old rushing record. Bell has amassed 337 rushing yards, the most ever for a running back in their first two post season games. This week though, Bell and the Steelers head to New England, offering a unique scenario in which the Steelers may choose to use their biggest weapon in a different way.
The Patriots’ defense is an interesting matchup for Bell for a number of reasons. The Patriots have done a terrific job of keeping running backs in check on the ground. According to Pro Football Reference, the Patriots have surrendered the fewest rushing yards to running backs in the AFC. But where the Patriots show strength is also where they show weakness.
The Patriots have allowed the second most receptions (101) and third most receiving yardage (801) in the NFL to running backs. This vulnerability for the Patriots’ defense could read as blood in the water to Bell and the Steelers’ offense.
The thought of Bell catching the football and making splash plays out of the backfield may seem like a distant memory that was left in Buffalo at this point. While Bell has caught everyone’s attention with his postseason rushing, the Steelers’ running back has been remotely quiet in the passing game. Bell’s post-season résumé reads just four receptions for three yards, uncharacteristic numbers that could be due for a rise this weekend.
Numbers aside, this is no suggestion that the Steelers should abandon the run and instead feed passes to Bell. Besides, if it is not broken, why bother to fix it, right? With 337 rushing yards, it’s looking like Bell is going to have his way, no matter who is lined up opposite the Steelers’ offense.
The Patriots’ play towards running backs out of the backfield is just an offering of an avenue of weakness for the Steelers to explore. It will be interesting to see how Bell and the Steelers explore this avenue and just how far they go with it.