One could almost hear the Baltimore Ravens' defense in unison when they saw Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger split out wide, leaving just rookie running back Le'Veon Bell in the backfield.
Bell became the first Steelers running back to take a direct snap since Chris Rainey did it last season against Cincinnati. The Wildcat-ish package isn't something offensive coordinator Todd Haley breaks out often, but it's indicative of the expansion taking place within the Steelers' offense.
Perhaps it isn't a coincidence the Steelers' rushing game took on new life in Week 7 last year - that game against Cincinnati produced 167 rushing yards. This year, the Steelers pounded out 143 yards, with Bell's 93 on 19 carries leading the way. Perhaps it's even less a coincidence that Cincinnati game was played almost exact a year prior to the Steelers' Week 7 win over Baltimore.
Or, maybe it's just that Bell is becoming more aware of how the game is played in the NFL, and the offensive line is starting to gel together. Either way, it bodes well for the Steelers the rest of the way.
Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook quoted Bell after Sunday's win saying, "The game is still fast, but it's starting to slow down for me," Bell said. "The more I play, the more comfortable I feel. I had a great week of practice and I think it showed today. I'm going to continue to get better."
One particular move, used multiple times against the Ravens, shows Bell's natural ability, regardless of his level of experience. Running to his left, he has a lightning-fast cut back to the inside, and his vision after making that cut shows he has full confidence in it. He cuts to avoid the outside defender, but is still balanced enough and in an athletic position to take on the inside tackler.
That move alone gains him at least four extra yards each time he runs it.
He's improving with each game, and with at least 16 carries and at least 20 touches in his three games so far, the offense is beginning to be centered around him.
Steelers fans can expect good things from him the rest of the way.
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