I don’t have the credentials or game hours of an offensive coordinator like Todd Haley, but if the best defense begins with a good offense, then Le’Veon Bell needs 25 carries at a minimum and 5-7 receptions on Sunday when the Pittsburgh Steelers meet the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday.
Though the Steelers’ secondary has battened down the hatches during its winning streak, it remains susceptible. And Tom Brady only needs a clean pocket for a heartbeat or two before he hits his targets. Knowing this, it’s paramount for pass rushers like Stephon Tuitt, Bud Dupree, and James Harrison to corral Brady.
But the Steeler’s front seven can only hope to hold out when it comes to hedging off Brady and the Patriots’ offense. That’s why the Steeler’s defense needs supplementary help to keep Brady off the field. In comes Le’Veon Bell, a workhorse running back during an age when teams prefer their backfields to have multiple sled dogs carrying the load.
Bell can be a game manager in an unexpected way. When he’s fed the ball consistently as he was during last week’s playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs, he can extend drives. Thus, you’ve got a back that can rip off chunks of yardage while taking time off the clock—keeping Brady playing patty cake with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on the sidelines.
At 6’1, 225, Bell is the most unique assassin in the NFL. He slithers, glides, and darts amongst the crevices he finds in the defense, shifting gears effortlessly. He allows the defense to overcommit, tap-dances while his offensive line sets up their blocks, and springs between the tackles when he detects a fissure.
He’s like a counter-striker in boxing or MMA, allowing his opponent to initiate and overcommit before he parries the blows and counters with his own set of strikes. He has the patience and vision of a sniper, as well as the calm of a bomb squad technician.
A lot of backs would get antsy waiting for the amount of time that Bell does in order for his blocks to set and holes to open up, but Bell does his finest work when the defense swarms. It’s astounding that he rarely takes losses on his runs, which is a testament to his agility and slippery footwork. There are times when it looks like Bell could do the Muhammad Ali shuffle behind the line of scrimmage as his offensive line maintains their blocks. If you don’t know what the Ali Shuffle is, here’s a link to some footage. You’ll see the similarities.
If the Steelers have any notion of keeping step with the Patriots on Sunday, Todd Haley must serve a double portion of the pigskin to Le’Veon Bell. Whether it’s splitting him out wide, hitting him on screens, or letting him get successive touches, Todd Haley can utilize Bell as a continuous thorn in the Patriots’ side.
In addition, since the Steelers have struggled to finish drives, why not call Bell’s number more in the red zone? It’s something the Steelers have neglected, and even if Haley is determined to call passing plays in the red zone, Bell is a solid option on a simple checkdown from a shotgun set. Either way, Le’Veon Bell is hungry for touches, so Todd Haley, get this man his meal. Steelers nation is counting on it.
Kevin Cochrane is a writer, college student, and founder of Town Crier. Like what you read? Follow him on Twitter at RunFree_KC, friend him on Facebook, or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to get Town Crier’s latest updates. Want to read more? Visit his blog at restandrefuge.wordpress.com which offers a Christian perspective on the surrounding culture. You can contact him with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.