He Shall Be Le\’Veon And He Shall Be A Good Blocker

Pittsburgh Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson was asked this past week what he\’s looking for out of second-round draft pick Le\’Veon Bell moving forward as the team wrapped up their final week of offseason practices and his response was pretty straight forward.

“Just the ability to grasp the entire offense, the entire package, from a protection standpoint, ball security, running the right route on pass plays,” said Wilson. “We are looking for all phases from him in order to be able to compete at the highest level. The fundamentals have to be there.”

Wilson also reiterated this past week that none of his running backs are given playing time until they are able to protect the quarterback.

“That\’s anybody. That\’s any running back,” Wilson said per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You have to be able to protect the quarterback, or you won\’t play. That\’s not just in Pittsburgh. That\’s in every NFL city.”

While Bell was an adequate blocker at Michigan State, the jump to the professional level won\’t allow for him to be just adequate and especially when it comes to having to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has taken enough of a beating over the course of his first nine years in the league. Bell, however, thinks his size will help him.

“I am looking forward to it,” Bell said. “I am a big guy, too. There are other running backs that are a lot smaller than me who can protect great. I am going to watch technique, learn technique and use my size to my advantage. I know how important it is.”

Animated GIF Steelers RB Le\'Veon Bell Pass Blocking Michigan State

While it took him a little while to master it, fellow running back Jonathan Dwyer has made incredible strides in the pass protection portion of his game since his rookie season, and I pointed out several times last season how far he has come. As a second-round draft pick, however, Bell will be expected to master his blocking skills much quicker than Dwyer did.

While he certainly isn\’t the coach, and his opinion won\’t dictate when Bell gets to play, center Maurkice Pouncey said this past week on NFL AM that he thinks all the Steelers running backs are looking good in the pass protection department so far.

“Right now we could put any back in there, and he could really go in there and do the job as far as running the ball and pass blocking,” Pouncey said. “I think all the guys are really doing a great job.”

While Bell certainly appears to have the want factor when it comes to pass protection, Wilson also pointed out what the rookie already said he needs to learn, and that\’s technique.

“There is so much more technique involved,” said Wilson. “You are dealing with skilled pass rushers opposed to guys in college.”

Staying square and possessing a good anchor is a must when it comes to any kind of blocking, as is leverage, which Bell might struggle with the most since he is so tall. On top of that, recognizing where a free blitzer is coming from is also a bigger chore than most realize. A late read can end with a quarterback laying flat on his back at any level, and the speed of the NFL is a lot less forgiving than college.

Up until now, Bell hasn\’t proven anything at the NFL level when it comes to pass protection as contact isn\’t allowed during the offseason practices. In other words, everybody blocks pretty well in shorts when there isn\’t any hitting taking place. Once the team is allowed to put the pads on in training camp, however, head coach Mike Tomlin won\’t waste any time getting to the backs on backers drill, and that\’s when we\’ll really know if the rookie has not only the want to pass block, but the necessary technique in addition.

  • Mike Sweeney

    Bell, wants it badly. Look forward to strides, he makes this year. Studying, preparation and training = success.

  • SteelerDave

    I think Levon Bell was a very solid 2nd round choice who will make huge strides and be our starting back by mid-season. He wants to learn and that is a big plus.

  • PoKey21

    Atleast Laveon doesnt have any hesitation when hes blocking an inside LB coming at full speed. Overcoming that fear is half the battle for RBs.

  • charles

    I am highly sceptical of Bell. The running game last year had no chance because of inconsistencies in the Oline. Jim Brown could not have run behind it. I hope that I am wrong and that Bell turns out to be a faster Bus. From what little tape I have seen is he does not have good acceleration or speed. It is only an opinion, but if he doesnot excel with YAC then he will be redundant behind Dwyer and Redman. While Dwyer’s physical conditioning has been very disappointing, it sure looks like Redman will be the back that has to be beaten out of the starting job. But, I really like both Dwyer and Redman and I hope Bell can live up to expectations. Dunn and the Howler could be a pleasant surprise given the fact that the Steelers have been toying around with a scatback since Stefan Logan.

  • steeltown

    Obviously college is college and Bell has not proven anything yet.. but half the reason he was selected was because of his YAC and has gained some serious yardage in college after initial contact.

    The speed thing is often times overhyped.. Arian Foster went undrafted because he ran high 4.6, same with Alfred Morris who fell all the way to the 6th Rd.. yet these guys are top tier NFL RB’s

  • charles

    I do agree that speed is overhyped. And, there is an Adrian Peterson for every Foster. Marshawn Lynch for every Jamaal Charles. But one thing is for sure, the NFL is light years faster than college. And they hit a lot harder. I am pulling for Mr. Bell, however he seems to have already won the starting job and I can’t go there just yet.

  • steeltown

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he split time with Dwyer to start the season, till he gets acclimated and shows he can pass protect