Steelers: Le’Veon Bell’s “Patience” Examined

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The Steelers games are impossible to get through without hearing the word patience. Le’Veon Bell’s success is always attributed to this factor. But what does that mean?

NFL: New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers
NFL: New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers /

The Steelers nailed it when they drafted Le’Veon Bell in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft. He was the first back taken and at the time, many questioned why the Steelers did not take Montee Ball or Eddie Lacy. It seemed nobody but Tomlin truly understood what made Bell great.

Bell’s reputation at the time of the draft was a big back with good hands who ran too upright, who did not take advantage of his power. It turns out, he was running upright because he was using his eyes instead of just his power.

See, Bell had been told many times that his running style is wrong. Coaches want running backs to hit the hole hard, to fly through the opening to get as many yards from it as possible or to at least have enough forward momentum to push a pile. What Bell does is referred to as tippy-toeing to the hole in some circles or being indecisive.

Tomlin understood though and Bell joined the Steelers. Bell was successful in his rookie year but he showed up for his second year 15 pounds lighter and in incredible shape. Since that time he has been widely regarded as not only the best running back in the league but someone who is revolutionizing the position.

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Bell is unique in part due to his pass catching ability. He often lines up at wide receiver, has great hands, and is dangerous after the catch. Unique is not revolutionary however. Matt Forte and Darren Sproles can catch passes.

What is revolutionary is that tippy-toeing. He makes it work. Because he makes it work they give it a positive connotation and call it patience (Here is one of many articles you can find referencing Bell’s patience). It’s this patience that makes Bell great. It’s this patience that is revolutionizing the position.

Bell is a powerful back, but he’s not the most powerful. Bell is fast, but he’s not the fastest. He’s very shifty, but he’s not necessarily the shiftiest. He takes that well-rounded, no weakness style and multiplies the effectiveness of it by utilizing patience and knowing when to take advantage of opportunities.

But what do people mean when they (constantly) reference Bell’s patience?

Well, they essentially are referring to 1) Bell’s spatial awareness, 2) his understanding of how blocking works, and 3) his utilization of his physical tools. So what do I mean by all this?