The Pittsburgh Steelers have had some great running backs throughout their history, like John Henry Johnson, Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis. There have been other running backs that have had some great seasons, like Barry Foster and Willie Parker, who recorded the longest touchdown run in Super Bowl history when he blew past the Seattle Seahawks defense for a 74-yard score in Super Bowl XL. While Johnson, Harris and Bettis were power backs, Parker was strictly speed. Le’Veon Bell is a combination of all of them, and he just might be the best. When you look at what Bell has transformed himself into, a chiseled 215 pounder with 2.6% body fat, it’s hard to believe he was 240 pounds coming out of Michigan State. From the moment Bell arrived in Pittsburgh, he put his head down and went right to work. Following a rookie season where he showed that he was a franchise running back in the making, he decided that he needed to work even harder, and proceeded to re-shape himself into the physical freak that he is now.
In Bell’s second season, he led the AFC in rushing and finished second in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage. Bell also recorded 200 total yards in three straight games, tying Walter Payton’s NFL record. There may not be a more patient running back in the NFL than number 26, or one with better vision. It’s absolutely amazing to watch him drift down the line, because when he finds his hole and plants that foot, he is gone. Once Bell reaches the second level of a defense he can run you over, run past you, and on occasion he can simply hurdle you. Either way, Le’Veon Bell’s skill set is very special and very rare. The work he puts into his craft is what sets him apart from everyone else. Even rarer than said skill set is how infrequently he puts the ball on the ground. Out of 373 touches in 2014, Bell didn’t fumble the ball one time. So far in 2015, he hasn’t parted ways with the football, either. As comfortable as he looks running the ball, Bell looks just as adept when he lines up as a wide receiver, and there is no doubt that if he chose to switch to wide receiver, he would be a starter.
As special of a player as Bell is, he seems to be just as good of a person. Recently, just prior to the San Diego Chargers game, a serviceman was walking off the field towards Bell and DeAngelo Williams. This serviceman asked if he could take their pictures and instead of letting it go at just that, Bell and Williams invited him to have his picture taken with both of them. Bell regularly interacts with fans on Facebook and Twitter and has always been gracious with those he comes into contact with. As with all professional athletes who play a skill position, Le’Veon Bell wants the ball in his hands, especially when it matters the most. Against Baltimore, on two crucial fourth down situations, Bell didn’t get the ball when it made all the sense in the world to give it to him. The results ended up in two failed attempts to sustain drives with the Steelers in scoring position. The Steelers lost the game. In San Diego, Bell was entrusted with the direct snap, out of the Wildcat formation, in a do or die situation for the Steelers, with five seconds left in the game. They could have played it safe and kicked a field goal to tie it.
If Bell scores, the Steelers win. If he doesn’t, it’s game over. Bell crossed the goal line on an extraordinary second effort. In both situations Bell’s reaction remained the same. He is the ultimate teammate and Pittsburgh Steeler, who puts winning and team above personal numbers and success. The thing with Bell is that the success of the Steelers is often directly proportional to the number of opportunities he receives each game, on the ground as well as through the air. With only one ball to go around and multiple weapons on the offense, Bell knows he will get his chances and that he’ll make the most of them. The Steelers struck gold with Bell, getting first round talent in the second round, and they plan on making him a life-long Steeler. By the time he is done, don’t be surprised if he owns every team rushing record, and with how much work he is willing to put in to get them. Le’Veon Bell is a special kind of running back, a Walter Payton kind of special, and like Walter, Bell is the total package.