By Matthew Marczi
When the Pittsburgh Steelers first broke huddle against the Miami Dolphins, it seemed that the game plan was to ride the young workhorse running back, Le’Veon Bell, in the snowy weather.
The first snap of the game was a running back screen that went for five yards. A sack on second down set the plan backwards, but they went right back to Bell on the next drive, feeding him on the first four plays for 22 yards.
After four more carries for 10 yards and another pass for nine yards, the Steelers found themselves on the Dolphins’ five-yard line before Ben Roethlisberger found Emmanuel Sanders for the game’s first score.
Then the second quarter came around, and the Steelers started spelling Bell with Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones.
In fact, he had just two carries to close the second half, one of which was negated by a holding penalties, and no targets.
Bell finished up the last drive of the third quarter with three carries for 18 yards and a 10-yard reception. The fourth quarter was filled with incomplete passes.
In total, he finished with 15 carries and five receptions. 20 touches seems like a respectable amount, but not when you consider how they came out of the gate pounding the ball into his gut.
A reader asked me prior to the game whether I felt Bell was in for a big game. My response was that I felt the Steelers would be lenient on him if the game circumstances allowed for them to do so.
Thus, I wasn’t surprised to see them come out using him heavily early on in order to establish the run.
However, I was surprised to see how the game developed as Bell was slowly weaned out of the offensive attack despite the Steelers in a one-possession game, not to mention battling the elements.
Did the Steelers use Bell less as the game wore on because they wanted to monitor his usage after suffering a concussion the week before, or was it simply a product of circumstance, considering much of the second half featured the no huddle?
It’s hard to say, but there’s no denying that nine of his 15 carries came in the first quarter alone. Most of his nine targets came late in the game, primarily on checkdowns as the pass protection gradually corroded.