Le’Veon Bell Passes The Eye Test

By Matthew Marczi

Last week, I wrote about Le’Veon Bell’s performance in which he ran for just a 2.1 yard per carry average. I noted that while the poor run-blocking performance of the offensive line was at issue, the rookie back displayed some tendencies, particularly earlier in the game, of not trusting himself, and as a result, missing holes and being too impatient in his decisions.

I wrote that I was hypercritical of his performance because I believed that I saw in that game a back that had a lot more to offer, even in the same game circumstances, than he showed against a stout New York Jets front. Bell’s performance yesterday against the Baltimore Ravens showed that to be the case.

First and foremost, it is worth mentioning that the run blocking was improved this week. A lot of this had to do with an inferior opponent, as the Ravens’ front is nowhere near as daunting as the trio of Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison, and especially Muhammad Wilkerson. Even though the Ravens had Haloti Ngata, the offensive line did not have nearly the troubles that they did last week.

Additionally, Heath Miller also had a relatively unrepresentative game as a run blocker in spots last week, while the team was caught reeling from the surprising early loss of tight end David Johnson, and were forced to make do on the fly with David Paulson, the latter of whom did better this week.

Finally, this week, the Steelers utilized former starting left tackle Mike Adams—who was arguably the team’s best run-blocking lineman last season—as an extra lineman in spots in this past game.

Thus, the table was also set for Bell to have a better day this week, even with Guy Whimper replacing Marcus Gilbert at right tackle for most of the game. The results were evident: a career-high 93 yards on 19 attempts, just south of five yards per carry. That more than doubled his total from the first two games and improved his per-carry average from 2.8 yards all the way to 3.6.

So why the steep improvement in production? As previously mentioned, the performance of the offensive line and the quality of opponent are obviously key factors, but there was also clearly a change in Le’Veon Bell and his demeanor evident on the field.

It started early, on the second play of the game, when Bell carried for six yards, and then went for eight on the next play. He displayed patience and confidence in his blockers that the play would develop as it should. He hit creases hard when he had to, and took his own path when necessary.

Consider this: of Bell’s 19 carries, only seven went for less than four yards, and only three went for no gain or a loss of one. One of those carries came on the penultimate play as he set up Shaun Suisham on the left hash mark for the game-winning field goal. Yes, Le’Veon Bell certainly passed the eye test yesterday, but he still has even more to offer, with time.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Mike.H

    Don’t want to jinx the kid, but BELL ran for 7 shy of 100 yards with longest run being 11 or 13…

    Anytime, being a hunnerd yard rusher, he’s no fluke. Too bad, the first 4 games’ ill prepared mental state of mind cost us at least 2 losses.

  • Kelly A

    Ignoring the comment below, which exemplifies some of the issues with this fanbase, the greatest thing about Leve’on Bell is his vision. Throughout his run, this young man shows great patience and vision to know where the blocks are going and when to create. He is the type of running back that this team needs and he is only going to get better. God bless him.

  • Aric Brown

    great patience is an understatement the kid looked like a savvy 10 year vet on some of those plays… on the 2nd wildcat play it seemed as if he stood there waiting for nearly an entire second waiting on the hole to open up… and when it did he shot right through for a nice gain… i think we may have finally found a running back

  • treeher

    He seems to hit his high gear on the first step. Impressive.

  • Douglas Kostel Jr.

    First and foremost, your assessment about him missing holes was proven wrong. He didn’t miss holes in the Jets game. Your ridicule of him last week was not supported by the gif’s that were posted. The Ravens defense was ranked number 10 against the run coming into the game. You seriously think that’s an inferior opponent? Those of us who watched Bell in college know he wasn’t running any differently last week. Your attempt to pat yourself on the back (for calling it) is a BIG fail.

  • steeltown

    So true, he was patient and then when he saw a crease or a hole he hit it and he hit hard with authority.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    It is easier to be this excited about a prospect of Le’Veon Bell’s kind. Haven’t seen a really good, consistent inside running from a RB since days of Jerome Bettis- I have temper my excitement as it is the Ravens minus Ngata for the majority of game and also without players they had last season.

    Mind you, I’m not saying he has nothing to gain upon; but it is hard for meto get comfortable with new set of starting tackles… AGAIN!

    Overall I’ll admit, I’m impressed with Todd Haley’s creativity with running game. It showed against the Ravens.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    All I know is that it was much better and against a team that we normally do not have much success running against albeit they are beaten up right now but that is not our problem.

  • Mike Carroll

    Nice to see Bell have a good game. His patience is definitely very distinctive. I just hope he shows some consistency in the coming weeks. As surprising as it sounds, the Steelers were able to rush for a decent amount of yardage in both Ravens games last year as well. I hate to bring up Eddie Lacy, but he ran for 120 in Balt last week. Not saying Lacy is better or anything like that. I like Bell, just hope he provides this type of performance on a consistent basis. Next week in Oakland will be a good test. They have a pretty good defensive front, and they’ll probably be swarming the line of scrimmage now that the Steelers have put “small menu baseball” on tape for 2 weeks in a row.

  • Jeff

    WOW…. It was exciting everytime this guy touched the ball…. He’s patient, and has a physical demeanor that we haven’t had in a while at RB…. I really like how he finishes his runs too, and I’ve noticed it in every game. Their rookie safety Elam is feeling it today….

  • steeltown

    If that’s the case, then hopefully Ben can unload on them with A.Brown, Miller and Cotchery

  • Bill Molinaro

    Bell has very quick feet. Love his jump cuts, his patience and then his quick decisive, move into the hole no matter the size. Teams now must game plan for him. Hope he stays healthy.

  • Fire.Mike.Tomlin

    I’m not sure why some people are surprised by his ‘quickness’. The
    combine and itsdrills don’t always tell “the tale”– we certainly see
    workout warriors come and go— but Bell showed very well in the 3 cone drill.

  • Bill Molinaro

    Don’t understand the harsh critique of Marczi’s article on Bell’s performance in the Jets game. The Jets front is one of the best and the OL is not, but there were lanes and Bell didn’t get to them quickly enough; I believe that’s why Marczi said he didn’t trust himself. As presented, this is constructive criticism and that’s a good thing.
    As for the statement below about Bell’s earlier mental state I ask: What does that mean? If the writer means he was concerned about the foot injury, I certainly would not call that a low mental state, but rather a reasonable and understandable trepidation. That type of foot injury is rapidly becoming the new, terrible scourge of the NFL.

  • Lucus Rodriguez

    Anyone else upset that he had 90 plus yards in the third and only got a carry or 2 in the fouth quarter. Would have loved to see the coaches let him go get the 100.

  • Mike Carroll

    That would be great to see. I’m glad the team won yesterday with short game (running and passing), but opponents will clamp down on it just like they did in the second half of last year. I think the offense is going to need to generate more explosive plays in winning efforts to really make some noise this season.

  • Dr. Doom

    Not always about individual stats remember he is coming off that foot injury, they got beat upfront and its on tape

  • Dr. Doom

    Where are the we didn’t need him we had Dwyer, who never got a chance?

  • Dan

    Nothing extraordinary or splashy, but certainly well into the upper end of solid. At this point that is great to see. Hope it continues. I suspect he could also add to the passing game.

  • Riverstko

    I believe Bell will become a Good Pro! I remember him at Michigan St. He is a Baller. His style reminds me of A. Peterson. Looking forward to him breaking a long run!

  • Jay Brenner

    I was hoping that also. But the win was more important. Also not sure if his foot is 100%, though it looks to be.He looks taller than 6 1 or he carries his 240 lbs extremely well. As in zero body fat. Anybody else notice this ?Luv to see a picture of him with his shirt off. He’s gotta be ripped. Reminds me of Eddie George.

  • Guest

    stay healthy bell and we can make a good run. He made some good plays vs the ravens go steelers

  • Mike Popovich

    Here is my thing about Bell and the running game as a whole. When you compare the RBs last year versus the last 3 weeks, it feels like the Steelers WANT to run the ball. With the exception of Weeks 7-9 last year, the Steelers had no intention of running it, often abandoning it far too quickly.

  • Callentown

    Hi Shannon,

    We had posted about Bell before. This was really the first game he was able to show much. Do you see that he is different from Redman and Dwyer more after seeing how they are able to use Bell?

    It was exciting to see how they schemed to use him I thought also.

  • Lucus Rodriguez

    Its not. But ratbird nation would have hated to see a steeler RB go for 100 against them. Prolly more than losing. When we had that long streak without allowing a 100 yard rusher. And jamal lewis broke it. Made me livid

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I still think they are very similar, Bell has a little bit more wiggle and is a better back but I still disagree. :)