The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger take a dip in the fountain of youth recently. Over the last month, Roethlisberger has looked like his old self, erasing any earlier doubt over if the quarterback still had “it”. But just how has Roethlisberger captured it, could it be the work of a secret fountain of youth located at the Steelers’ facility?
The obvious answer is MVP candidate Antonio Brown. Brown has been a cheat code for Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense over the last month. But while Brown has taken credit for all of Roethlisberger’s extraordinary downfield throws, Roethlisberger would not be where he is today without the security of his always reliable running back Le’Veon Bell.
Bell has been nothing short of dominant as a receiving option over the last month. The Steelers’ running back has not only dominated among his running back peers but his production ranks tops among most receivers. Over the last four games, Bell has recorded 35 receptions. The only players to record more receptions than Bell during this span? The Steelers’ own Brown and Los Angeles’ Keenan Allen, who both have 39 receptions each.
While Bell’s 328 receiving yards during this four game span ranks 11th in the NFL, the running back’s reliability is without a doubt top of the board. Out of all candidates with at least 20 receptions, Bell’s 85.4 catch percentages ranks first in the NFL. Roethlisberger has thrown 41 passes to the Bell over the last month and the Steelers’ running back has managed to catch 35 of those throws.
Roethlisberger has shown immense trust in Bell as his security blanket down the stretch, and the trust is paying dividends for the quarterback’s own play. Over the last month, Roethlisberger has completed 67 percent of his passes and has thrown for 12 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. Three of Roethlisberger’s last four contests have also seen him record a passer rating of 99.0 or higher.
With a rediscovered trust in his running back, Roethlisberger is limiting his risk to throw potentially errand passes and instead relying on Bell to produce. Bell has returned the favor, scoring two receiving touchdowns and setting the Steelers’ franchise record for most receptions in a game for a running back.
Whether it be from the backfield or split or wide, Bell can also be used in a variety of ways for Roethlisberger and the offense. This is perhaps Bell’s greatest strength as not only does it benefit himself but it also opens up the field for Brown and the Steelers’ other passing options. With added attention on Bell, the Steelers simply have too many hot hands for the defense to account for.
With a date against the New England Patriots approaching this weekend, Roethlisberger and Bell will need to continue their red-hot chemistry as the two teams battle for home field advantage in the AFC.