The Offense Must Center Around Bell
It may have taken a month but Le’Veon Bell officially arrived to the party, in a big way. Bell, who had been relatively average, to be polite, through the first three games of the 2017 season, amassed 186 total yards against the hated Baltimore Ravens on Sunday; 144 of which came on the ground via 35 carries.
Bell’s emergence couldn’t have come at a better time after the black and gold were coming off an embarrassing loss to the lowly Chicago Bears in which they couldn’t do much of anything right. Running the football, something they have historically done well since Bell’s arrival in 2013 had been a struggle in 2017, until Pittsburgh entered Baltimore.
Bell put on a display that Steeler fans have been accustomed to over the last four seasons and have been waiting for since the Steelers season kicked off last month. His patented patience seemed to return, his bursts of speed and his splash plays all came back with a vengeance. Bell appeared to be on a one man mission to get the Steelers offense back on track. In doing so, he allowed Ben Roethlisberger to throw more efficient passes as well as spread the ball around a bit more, enabling the offense to be far less predictable.
Since Bell led the way on the ground with 144 yards against the Ravens, it was Martavis Bryant’s 48 yards that led the team in the air. Bell wasn’t far behind with 42.
After watching that display against Baltimore, it became abundantly clear to me and I’m sure to Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin as well; the offense must center around Le’Veon Bell. He’s a game changer due to his splash play ability but he can control the clock far better than anyone else on the team. He doesn’t necessarily need to get 35 carries against Jacksonville this week in order for the team to win the game but the offense must start with him. In doing so, the big plays that Roethlisberger and his receivers have been craving all season long will begin to open up. The explosive abilities of Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant and even rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster can be capitalized upon because defenses will have to stay true to the run first. Everything is different when Bell is the priority.
There are so many ways to get the ball to Bell. Obviously he’ll receive handoffs the majority of the time but he’s the best receiving back in the NFL so supplementing some of the runs with short passes will work just as well if not better. Additionally, as much as I’ve soured on the Wild Cat formation over the years; I actually wouldn’t mind seeing Bell run it every now and again to throw another wrinkle at opposing defenses (including letting him throw it once or twice).
The Steelers have playmakers all over the offensive side of the ball with Brown, Bryant and Roethlisberger but the most impactful is Le’Veon Bell. It started in Baltimore and it must continue against Jacksonville and beyond; the offense must center around number 26 and explode from there. We saw the relative ineffectiveness of the offense the first three weeks when the ball was forced to the receivers on the outside and they worked the plays in on a supplemental basis to Bell and the running attack.
We also saw how it worked when the plays began with Bell from the inside and worked to the outside; the defense was confused and unable to stop the Steelers attack.
The offense is now; and must continue to be Le’Veon Bells.