For the five seasons Le’Veon Bell suited up for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was among the best backs in football. A true workhorse player, he was a three-down player who could catch and block. But what separated him from the rest of his peers was his vision. Coupled with incredible patience, Bell had an uncanny ability to wait-wait-wait and find the hole, bursting through the other side.
Appearing on the Steel Here podcast with Jersey Jerry and Kevin Adams, Bell described how he honed his vision and took it to another level once he got in the NFL.
“Everybody’s like ‘hit the hole, hit the hole hard, hit the hole hard.’ I see it, but like I wanna make that hole bigger,” he said.
Bell’s running style was as unique as his overall game. He had size but didn’t have to be a bruiser, patiently waiting for a lane to open up. As he alludes to, the conventional thought for the position is to find the right crack and hit the hole as opposed to waiting and risking a loss or minimal gain. Bell could somehow blend the two, being patient and waiting while still getting to and through the hole.
Some of that was an offensive line that understood his running style. A veteran group led by the likes of Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Ramon Foster would run their feet and hold their blocks until Bell made up his mind.
“Our play was double or duo. And I know I got my double teams with Pouncey, DeCastro, Ramon or whatever,” Bell said. “I know they’re gonna do their job because they know how I was, too. They know I was literally sitting back there all day if I need to.”
Of course, opposing defenses caught on and knew Bell’s running style, not that it helped slow him down much. But he says it got to the point where defenses would stop even looking at where he was going, knowing he was just setting up and fooling defenders with his last-second decisions.
“The Miami Dolphins in the playoffs, they got to the point where they wouldn’t even look at me,” Bell said. “They were just literally getting to their gap and basically not even looking at me…that’s how much the mind games I was playing with these guys.”
That came in the 2016 AFC Wild Card Game, a blowout 30-12 victory for Pittsburgh. Bell went off that day, rushing for 167 yards and two touchdowns, controlling and dominating the day. Here’s just a couple of his best highlights, a reminder of that ridiculous patience that had the Dolphins grabbing at air.
Bell made those plays routinely throughout his Steelers career. It’s one of the most unique running styles of anyone in franchise history, perhaps NFL history, and brought him all kinds of success. Perhaps others were capable of doing it but the style felt so counter to what running backs are taught; none had the willingness to do it. Or the patience. Which Bell clearly showed he had in spades.
You can watch the full interview below.