As Le’Veon Bell said earlier this week, he understands that even more will likely be put upon his shoulders for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense until Antonio Brown is able to return from his injury. It’s a good thing, then, that he is playing at a high level at the moment.
His skills were on display against the Patriots, rushing for 117 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, while adding another 48 receiving yards on five receptions. Surprisingly, he didn’t catch a pass in the second half, or he could have done even more damage.
The Steelers opened the game with a pass to the All-Pro running back. Coming out of the backfield from a sidecar position, Bell was able to sidestep David Harris and outrun a couple of defenders to pick up 17 yards and jumpstart an opening drive that ultimately stalled following a holding penalty.
Later in the second quarter, with the offense just across midfield and facing third and short, Bell lined up to Ben Roethlisberger’s left, and on a wheel route with a hitch, was able to run off Trey Flowers in coverage, stopping in the deep flat to field the pass. After making the grab, he was able to pick up some yards after the catch by evading Flowers and powering through two other defenders.
Bell doesn’t necessarily always score a lot—he went three games without scoring after the bye—but when he does, he often does so in bunches. He has at least one touchdown in the past three games, and six in total in that span.
He had one score against the Patriots, and it came on the ground, on second and goal from three yards out. Following a pull block around left end by David DeCastro, the running back was able to escape Elandon Roberts shooting the left-side B gap and powered his way into the end zone through two defenders, dying a career-high with eight rushing touchdowns this season.
On the final play of the third quarter, the Patriots were able pin Pittsburgh deep at their own three after a punt, but Bell picked up eight yards on first down to give the offense room to breathe. He tried to follow his fullback through the left side, but when that hole collapsed, he was able to kick further inside around the right-side B gap, squeezing through a crease.
On the following play, second and two, he wanted to follow the fullback once again, but the hole closed. Again, he bounced the run, first cutting right and then back inside for five yards. Watch the tackler, Ricky Jean Francois, on this play. This is why you always hustle to the football. To be clear, this is not a good example of that.
Some of his best work did not even come on some of his longest plays of the game, coincidentally enough. But he has made a career out of creating much of his own offense for himself. And that will continue to be a necessary tool in the games ahead.