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Steelers RB Bell in Discussion for Best RB in NFL, Experts Say

By Kipper @pghsportsforum
Steelers RB Bell in discussion for best RB in NFL, experts say
By Alan Robinson
Steelers RB Bell in discussion for best RB in NFL, experts say
A year ago this week, Le'Veon Bell lined up in an NFL backfield for the first time. He got his first carry, gained his first yard, scored his first touchdown. But there was a lot of catching up to do.
He had missed three games with a Lisfranc (foot) injury. And Eddie Lacy's fast start with Green Bay had some fans complaining the Steelers should have drafted him instead of Bell, who went 13 picks before Lacy.
Opposing the Steelers in that Week 4 game in faraway London was Adrian Peterson, the six-time, 1,000-yard Minnesota Vikings rusher who widely was regarded as the NFL's best running back.
Now, 52 weeks since Peterson outrushed Bell, 140-57, Bell certainly has gained ground as evidenced by this quote from LaDainian Tomlinson, Bell's favorite running back as a youngster: “Right now, I would take Le'Veon Bell over any running back in the league. He has it all.”
Statistically, Bell does. He is No. 1 in scrimmage yards (461 yards), No. 2 in rushing (315 yards), No. 2 in average (105 yards per game) and No. 4 in per-carry average (5.94). His 81-yard run Sunday at Carolina was the fourth-longest in Steelers history.
And in his first 16 NFL games, the equivalent of a full season, Bell has 1,175 rushing yards and 545 receiving yards.
“I knew (last year) he's special,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “I knew he was an all-around back. You get a lot of guys in this league that are either very good runners or specifically pass catchers, but he can do a little bit of everything and each one of them really well.”
Peterson? He's not even playing as the Vikings sort out the child-abuse charges against him. Lacy? He has 113 yards. LeSean McCoy? With the Philadelphia Eagles offensive line in disarray, he's been held to 175 yards, and 32 carries for zero or minus yardage.
Bell experienced his own problems — his marijuana possession and DUI charge a month ago — but there is no apparent effect on his play.
And it's not only Tomlinson who is proclaiming Bell, running behind an efficient Mike Munchak-coached line, might be the NFL's most-difficult-to-stop running back.
“I think he's a special running back and as good a running back, I think, as there is in the league,” Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said.
So what's changed for Bell so quickly?
“I just think I'm more comfortable with the offense. I'm obviously more comfortable with my teammates and the coaches,” he said. “I'm kind of just playing football, not really thinking. (Last year) I was out there thinking a lot. Now I'm just playing football — and I can play fast.”
He also plays slowly, and that's what former NFL fullback Heath Evans likes about him.
“He's not Marcus Allen, but that slow, methodical, almost-lull-you-to-sleep style we've seen out of him this year, I haven't seen out of him before,” said Evans, an NFL Network analyst. “It's different. It's very frustrating to defenses. … (He's got) patience. He baits people in the open field. He jump-cuts into another cut.”
What is separating Bell from other backs is his receiving ability, which Evans credits, in part, to his 20-pound weight loss since his Michigan State days.
“(Bill) Belichick says there are guys that can catch, but there are other guys who can just pluck the ball out of the air,” Evans said.
So given his rapid improvement and ability to take advantage of a better-performing offensive line, how much better can Bell get?
“I'm nowhere near to my full potential,” he said. “Just by how much better I feel since my rookie year to my second year, I can only imagine how I could feel in Year 5 or 6 in the league. I've still got a lot of things to work on, a lot of things to learn, and I'm going to continue to grow — and get smarter.”
("Smoking weed ain't smart kid." Skeeter)Steelers RB Bell in discussion for best RB in NFL, experts say Here's hoping he learned from getting arrested.

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