When Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell receives the ball from Ben Roethlisberger, he does not launch full speed into a clutter of linemen.
Instead, Bell often stutter steps, seemingly running half-speed, before finding a hole and carrying the ball several yards for the explosive Steelers offence.
The style seems to work for Bell, who on Sunday ran for 167 yards and two touchdowns in the Steelers’ 30-12 win over the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card round.
Over his last seven games (Bell sat out Week 17), he’s rushed for a total of 1,002 yards and eight touchdowns. As MMQB’s Peter King points out, that’s 142 yards more than Emmitt Smith’s, the all-time rushing leader, best seven-game stretch.
And according to King, Bell’s style is one that coaches often hate.
“Usually, Bell lines up as the classic I-back, seven yards deep, and when he takes a handoff from Ben Roethlisberger, he’ll take a couple of jab steps toward a hole and almost stop in his tracks. … Most coaches decry what they call pussyfooting. You’ll hear coaches sometimes yell at their backs to hit it up in there, don’t wait, get what you can. But Bell figures he’s running behind such a great tactical line that eventually he’s going to see a good crease. So he waits longer than other backs. It’s working.”
As King notes, CBS’s Phil Simms calls Bell “The Great Hesitator” for his patient running style.
It’s not an exaggeration. Watching Bell sometimes feels as though there’s a glitch in the broadcast.
When Bell finds his gap, he puts his foot on the gas.
Said Steelers guard Ramon Foster of blocking for Bell (via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler):
“I’ve loved to block for him. I’ve seen other guys try to do [his patient style] and can’t do it. Our job is to hold our blocks. He’s by far the best back in the league, no matter what other guys say.”
As Fowler notes, the Steelers have increased Bell’s carries significantly in recent games, and it’s paying off. The Steelers may be known as a dynamic passing team, but in recent weeks, it’s been Bell who’s carried the offence. In December, Bell averaged a healthy 5.2 yards per carry. Against the Dolphins, it was 5.8.
The Steelers play the Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs next week. The Chiefs allowed the seventh-most rushing yards in the league during the regular season, so it may be another huge week for Bell.
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