The Pittsburgh Steelers back in April believed that they selected their new running back in the form of Le’Veon Bell in the most recent NFL Draft; they got their first true sample of what he will bring to the table this past week in the team’s victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
Although he had some success in his first game against the Minnesota Vikings—which included scoring two touchdown, certainly nothing to sneeze at—it was not until this past game that many of Bell’s skills as a runner were really put on display for all to see. Most impressive of those features is his patience.
I wrote of his performance the week prior against the New York Jets and cautioned that he struggled because he was not putting enough trust in himself and his blockers and running impatiently, and that when he learns to do that, he is going to turn into a talented player. Turns out it would only take another week for that to come out. Take the following play for example, early in the game.
Bell displays a veteran sense of patience here after realizing that the play as designed is not going to take shape. Instead, he waits for an alternative avenue to develop, which is eventually provided by David DeCastro. It initially appears as though Bell should have his selection between either A Gap, but neither fully develop, and Bell wisely bides his time without fully committing.
Once DeCastro gets his man turned, Bell squirts around the corner for a nice gain. He took what the play gave him and did not leave yards on the field, as was also the case on the first play of the next drive.
The blocking scheme really hits its stride here, providing Bell with a clear path to take for a good gain. But he also shows some football intelligence by taking the cut inside the block of Marcus Gilbert rather than staying on the outside, which may well have earned him a few extra yards. There were times, however, where he had to work more for his yards, as on the first play of the second quarter.
I really like this play because it does a good job of showcasing Bell’s understanding of tempo and timing. He shows his savvy by holding back a tick, as it takes a moment for DeCastro to release from his double team block and take on Jameel McClain. At the same time, he also has to follow the block of Will Johnson.
Once he gets that sliver of an alley, however, he turns on the jets and he lowers the boom on safety Matt Elam for a solid nine-yard gain. By that same token, however, Bell also has the wherewithal to realize when he already has just about all he is going to get, as on this late third quarter carry.
Here Bell is able to play the ball close to the line until the last moment, when he springs it outside and cuts in between the blocks of his tight ends, Heath Miller and, yes, David Paulson. Thanks to their blocks on the perimeter, Bell is able to put the Steelers in second and three at the four-yard line. It really is a shame that the Steelers failed to get the ball in the end zone at the end of this drive, which ultimately played a role in allowing the Ravens to tie the game.