Steelers: Le’Veon Bell’s versatility gives Pittsburgh the edge
Le’Veon Bell enjoyed a breakout season in 2014 when he totaled 1,361 rushing yards, 854 receiving yards and 11 total touchdowns. As opposed to his rookie year when he missed the team’s first three games, the 2013 second round pick was healthy for Pittsburgh’s AFC North title-winning campaign and was an instrumental reason behind the team’s overall success.
Bell returns from his two-game suspension this week, and I for one am absolutely thrilled. Granted, it was amazing to see backup DeAngelo Williams perform well and lead the AFC in rushing yards during the Steelers’ 1-1 start to the 2015 regular season. Nevertheless, Bell is in an elite class of running backs at this moment when it comes to his skill-set as a whole.
Some of Bell’s significant contributions to the team are not even reflected on the stat sheet at times either. The former Michigan State Spartan is also an accomplished pass blocker, and his return to the lineup could not have come at a better time for Pittsburgh due to the pass rushers St. Louis possesses.
Despite the fact that Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey has been sidelined with an ankle injury, the Steelers’ offensive line has exceeded expectations this fall with their overall play. Strong play aside, the Rams still lead the NFL with 8.0 sacks and have one of the league’s most feared defensive line rotations.
At defensive end, Chris Long (1.0 sack) and Robert Quinn (2.0 sacks) form a tremendous duo with Eugene Sims in a rotational role (1.0 sack). The Rams are equally, if not more, talented at defensive tackle. Pro Bowl performer and former Pitt Panther Aaron Donald (2.5 sacks) leas the charge along with Michael Brockers and Nick Fairley (0.5 sack).
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is a coach who loves to bring pressure, and it will be up to Pittsburgh’s offensive line, tight ends and backs to neutralize whatever St. Louis throws at Ben Roethlisberger.
Thus, Bell’s insertion into the lineup this weekend is sure to provide an enormous boost if Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster, Cody Wallace, David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert have their collective hands’ full.
Bell can create big plays in the screen game, has the ability to be utilized when split out wide, and can chip in as a safety valve when a play breaks down due to pressure. The running back was targeted 105 times through the air last season (83 catches), and gained 723 of his 854 receiving yards after the catch! Best of all, almost half (41) of his receptions went for all important first downs.
As a pass blocker, few players at his position have the technique and willingness to help their quarterbacks like the Pro Bowl running back does. Three-down backs are extremely rare in this league, and Bell’s ability to protect his team’s most valuable player makes him such an important and consistent asset to the offense as a whole.
Le’Veon is one of the league’s best backs at this stage of his career, and I am sure that he should find running room against a defense which allowed 182 yards rushing to the Washington Redskins last weekend.
However, keep an eye on Bell as a pass protector and pass receiver in St. Louis, Steelers fans. It’s those skills which could earn Pittsburgh their second win of the 2015 campaign.
Next: Steelers vs. Rams: What to watch
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