Steelers: Bettis Thinks Bell Can Be All-Time Best


In a recent interview Steelers legend and recent Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis sang Le’Veon Bell‘s praises, quite a bit actually. He’s certainly got the talent. He’s going into his third year though. It’s a bit early to be talking about all time great. That being said, Jerome Bettis is the 6th leading rusher of all time, so it’s fair to say he knows a thing or two, or 13,662 to be exact.

Bettis told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,

"“I think if he continues on his course, I think he can be one of the best that ever put on a uniform — not just a Steelers uniform, one of the best running backs ever. I think he’s special. He’s a special player on the field, everything you see him do. He has the frame of a big back but the agility of a smaller running back, which makes him a very, very special player.”"

Let’s just reemphasize “best that ever put on a uniform.” I worry that the praise for Bell has been too much. Yes, he’s great. Yes, if he follows his trajectory he’ll perhaps be one of the best of all time.

It feels however like the praise for Bell has been getting so constant and over the top. It’s a bit like when a tech company with a lot of buzz makes an IPO. Like Facebook for example. It’s a good investment and it’s worth being excited about, but it seems like that excitement just feeds on itself until the price on a good investment gets pushed so high it’s not a good investment anymore.

What factors influence Bell’s future trajectory? Talent, work ethic, attitude, and health. Bettis actually addressed each of these.

  • Talent

Bell is a unique player. In the modern pass happy NFL, the position of running back has taken a back seat. It’s no longer the premium position it once was. This is all wrong though. The running back position doesn’t need to pushed to the background, it needs to be updated. Bell, with his ability to catch and block is that new back. His famous patience is a thing of beauty.

Of Bell’s skills Bettis said, “He’s a big back but also able to catch the ball out of the backfield, be elusive, do so many things. Being a three-down running back, that, in and of itself, is a special treat to have.”

  • Work Ethic

With two years in Bell’s work ethic seems pretty on point. First of all, you don’t play as well as he’s played on talent alone. We don’t have to infer work ethic however. Just look at a picture of Bell from his rookie year and another from last year. He completely transformed his physique. The guy knows how to handle the offseason.

On that, Bettis said,

"“He can definitely carry the mantle. He has all the traits, all the ability, he just has to continue on his trajectory and work as hard as he’s been working and not take it for granted. The biggest problems come in when you have talent and expectations but you don’t work hard. That’s a big disappointment. That’s what you have to watch for in all young football players — can they meet that expectation with work ethic? That’s one thing you can’t know until the moment they reach a certain success.”"

He went on to explain that now is the time where we find out what Bell is really made of in that regard.

  • Attitude

Obviously, the marijuana incident was not a good thing. We’ll have to keep an eye on this one. That one incident aside however Bell seems to have a solid attitude. In interviews he seems humble and polite. He reacted fairly well to the suspension, Bettis seemed to be impressed by the way he’s handled the suspension.

On his overall attitude, Bettis remarked, “What I like even more than his abilities on the field is what type of person he is. He’s very humble, very responsive, he looks you in your eye, talks to you and is very, very comfortable with who he is. That’s even a more special trait to have.”

  • Health

His foot got injured his first year. His knee got injured his second year. Bell is not invincible, that much is clear. But his injuries have not been very significant luckily. Often in the NFL, great running backs last a few seasons and just wear out. Remember Priest Holmes? Larry Johnson?

You never know when it’s going to happen. Greats like Eddie George, or arguably Chris Johnson just suddenly lose it. Legendary players like Gale Sayers only get through a handful of seasons. Unfortunately, there’s just no way to know about this and nothing we can do but hope.

Bell’s work ethic will help him stay durable. His size doesn’t hurt either. His running style, despite his size, is not one where he runs into a lot of punishment. In the end, we’ll ultimately just have to keep our fingers crossed.

Regarding the nice words Bettis had to say of Bell, Bell responded, “That’s amazing to hear from a Hall of Famer himself, one of the greatest Steelers and one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game. For him to rave about me, it’s an honor. It’s really humbling. That’s who I used to watch growing up. He kind of helped me mold my game to where it is now.”

Though I mentioned it couldn’t hurt to pull back on the Bell praise, it’s tough to argue with it. Sure, you don’t want to jinx it but I couldn’t call it wrong or exaggerated even. It’ll be fun watching him live up to expectations.

Next: Where Steelers Offensive Success Lies: Ben Roethlisberger

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