By Matthew Marczi
Perhaps the aspect of Le’Veon Bell’s game that has seen the most improvement since the beginning of the season is his pass protection—which really should be no surprise, given that he missed the majority of training camp and the preseason, not to mention the first three regular season games.
Over the course of the year, he has become quite adept at diagnosing and identifying blitzers both before and after the snap. That said, he does still have some work to do with respect to mastering the technique of actually blocking the rushers, as his form in this regard is somewhat raw.
A fine example of this comes from the middle of the first quarter of the Steelers’ past game against the Ravens. His identifying Arthur Brown coming on the rush from across the formation is certainly a good sign that he grasps what his responsibilities are in passing situations when he’s not a receiver.
When he came to actually making the block and stopping the rush, though, his showing left much to be desired. His meek attempt at a shoulder chip was easily evaded by the linebacker, but because it was a quick pass, the pressure meant nothing in the end. Still, you want to see better than that from your every down back.
Of course, it should go without saying that Bell is capable or more than that, and he did get better as the game went on. Later on in the first quarter, safety James Ihedigbo attempted to avoid the same shoulder chip that Brown easily evaded, only this time Bell had a counter and was able to push him out of harm’s way—although being on the same side of the formation didn’t hurt either.
He continued to clean up his technique as the game wore on. In fact, just two plays later he put a great block on Ihedigbo once again, eventually pushing him to the ground. if this were a backs on backers drill, despite Ihedigbo being a safety, I would say that Bell won the rematch.
Of course, Bell spent a lot of time during the game running routes rather than staying back in to pass protect, so we can skip ahead to the fourth quarter here. On this key third down, Bell picked up Daryl Smith after assuming that Fernando Velasco was going to be occupied by Josh Bynes. Unfortunately Velasco evidently thought the opposite, or simply let Bynes through. They ended up both blocking Smith, but Ben Roethlisberger was still able to complete the pass for a conversion.