View Full Version : Will Le veon Bell crack under pressure?

12-03-2014, 06:33 AM

By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Without much experience behind Le’Veon Bell, should the Steelers worry about running their workhorse back into the ground?

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger says yes. Coach Mike Tomlin — who once promised to run Willie Parker until his wheels came off — says no.

“You do have to be careful,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday on his show on 93.7 The Fan. “I hope we don’t, you know, run him into the ground, if you will.”

December is the traditional time in which the Steelers have turned to their ground game as the weather gets colder and the passing more difficult. Bell already has 281 “touches” — 216 rushes and 65 receptions, which is a Steelers record for running backs.

The past two games, he has 56 carries and 10 catches, and those numbers could go even higher after LeGarrette Blount’s release for walking out on the team. The only other halfbacks on the roster are rookies Dri Archer (9 carries for 41 yards, five receptions for 4 yards) and Josh Harris, who did not play on offense in his first NFL game Sunday. Fullback Will Johnson also is available.

“No, I’m not overly concerned about that,” Tomlin said Tuesday about Bell’s workload. “He has the pedigree for it, and I think that’s one of the things that attracted us to him in the draft.”

In his final season at Michigan State, Bell rushed 382 times for 1,793 yards. He also caught 32 passes.

“A lot of the football went through him his last year at Michigan State,” Tomlin said. “All you had to do was watch him over the course of that season and gain a level of comfort with his ability to tote the load. During his time here, he’s proven that he’s capable of doing that on the NFL stage, not only in terms of the running game, but his inclusion in the passing game.”

Bell missed his first three games with the Steelers last season because of a sprained foot. He still wound up carrying 224 times and caught 45 passes.

His 1,046 yards rushing lead the AFC and are second in the NFL only to Dallas’ DeMarco Murray, who has 1,427 yards on a league-leading 288 carries. Those two also are 1-2 in the NFL in yards from scrimmage. Combined, Murray has 332 carries and receptions for 1,770 yards. Bell has 1,689 combined yards.

Bell is a big back at 6 feet 1, 244 pounds. He also seems to have a knack of not taking big, direct hits, something Jerome Bettis also was able to avoid with his quick feet.

“He’s going to get the bulk of the carries,” Tomlin said. “He’s a highly conditioned guy. He’s a mentally tough guy. He’s a competitor. Personally, I think he’s built for it and he’s excited about having an opportunity to do it for us.”

In that regard, Roethlisberger agreed.

“We need him; he’s such a dynamic player and he means so much to our offense. For him to play that many snaps, I think, speaks volumes for him. I don’t know of a running back since I’ve been here who’s been able to play every snap. I think that speaks volumes for his conditioning and the work ethic he has put in.”

Bell won’t come close this year to the Steelers record for carries in a season. Barry Foster set that in 1992 when he ran 390 times for a team-record 1,690 yards. Bettis came close when he ran 375 times in 1997 for 1,665 yards and was rested in the season finale.

Parker ran 321 times for 1,316 yards in 2007, Tomlin’s first season as coach, after rushing 337 times for 1,494 yards the previous season. He never came close to 1,000 again and was out of football by 2010.

Mechanical issues

Tomlin and Roethlisberger agree that the quarterback’s mechanics were off Sunday, especially in the first half of the 35-32 loss to New Orleans at Heinz Field.

Roethlisberger competed just 8 of 22 passes for 115 yards and an interception in the first half. He finished 32 of 58 for 435 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

“When you’re looking at accuracy or inaccuracy, obviously mechanics are the first place that you look,” Tomlin said. “But again, sometimes outside forces can affect mechanics. There were certain instances, particularly at early stages of the game, where he was high on some throws, he couldn’t step into the throw. The pocket was collapsing on him a little bit and it didn’t allow him to have the proper throwing mechanics, which affected his accuracy in a couple of those instances.”

Roethlisberger’s past three games have been among his worst passer ratings of the season, a combined 79.3 rating compared to his 110.6 combined for the first nine games.

Through nine games, Roethlisberger threw for 22 touchdowns and three interceptions. The past three games, he has four touchdowns and five interceptions.

“Disappointment, disbelief in myself that I just didn’t play well and for no apparent rhyme or reason,” Roethlisberger said.

“I feel like I let so many people down.”

Roethlisberger said he did some “self-evaluation” at halftime on why his passes were sailing and concluded his elbow was too low.

“Sometimes your mechanics get away from you a little bit. There were a couple throws I just wasn’t quite stepping into the throws, so I was throwing off my back foot a little bit, which causes the ball to sail sometimes.

“Sometimes you feel that rush is getting into you a little bit, sometimes you can’t always step into your throws. I usually can make those throws, but for whatever reason, I wasn’t making them as accurately as I wanted to or needed to on Sunday.”

Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.

12-03-2014, 10:35 AM
Well, I think they need to start mixing in Josh Harris as much as possible. Look at the what the Cowboys are doing by mixing in John Randle to spell Demarco Murray.

12-03-2014, 11:30 AM
You would like to give Josh Harris a few carries here and there, but on the other hand we have to win these last 4 games and it would be really risky to take out the leagues best back for even a series or two.

12-06-2014, 06:00 AM
Yes. Physically he will because Tomlin is too much of a dolt to realize that they are going to eventually run him into the ground, into an injury and he'll never be the same after. But hey...why not...we gotta defend every blade of grass...unleash "hell" in December? right?