Homer has always enjoyed and respected the writing of fellow Peabody HS grad and Avondale Street neighbor Bob Smizik. Bob is a hard-working, honest, and damned good sports journalist. He's not a sensationalist. But Bob wrote a blog column on Monday in the Post-Gazette headlined, "Le'Veon not ringing the bell."
Calling it "second day thoughts on the Steelers' 37-27 win over the Detroit Lions," he noted that Bell has gained 375 yards in 120 carries in his career, and compared that to Rashard Mendenhall's 635 yards in his first 120 carries. He then noted that Mendenhall ran behind the line of Starks, Kemo, Hartwig, Essex, and Colon, which, Smizik says, was not a "superior line."
Well, figures lie but game film doesn't. And Homer has just taken a close look at the game film from the Lions' game so you don't have to. And what it shows is that Bell was far, far better than his stats would seem to indicate. It showed instances of him being hammered two, three, or even five yards behind the line of scrimmage - often almost immediately after receiving a handoff.
Let's go to the videotape:
10:18 1-10 S33 Bursts thru hole, goes for 12 yards.
9:56 1-10 S45 Hit solidly 3 yds behind LOS. Gang tackled for loss. No chance to get going
7:52 2-8 L42 Grazed by tackler 1 yd deep. Evades, runs into 3 tacklers at 40. 2 YG.
6:25 1-10 L34 Is secondary receiver on TD pass to A Brown. Hits LB #54 with solid block, then screens defenders to help Brown break loose for TD.
5:17 1-10 S37 Evades tackle at LOS. Hit solidly after 4 YG.
4:09 1-10 L47 Secondary receiver on TD pass to A Brown. Throws solid downfield block on #31.
Time? 1-10 L22 Hit one yard behind LOS. Runs into three tacklers. NG
10:50 1-10 L11 Runs right, evades tackler 3 yds behind LOS, turns corner, hurdles over tackler for 4 YG.
10:44 2-6 L7 Runs short down and in crossing pattern. Ben throws ball behind him as he's cutting
across the field. Reaches back and touches ball, but extremely difficult to catch. Incomplete.
9:54 1-10 S41 Spins away from a tackler 2 yds behind LOS, 4 YG after hit by three tacklers.
9:20 2-6 S45 Flares out of backfield, runs a seam pattern. Catches pass at L48 and breaks free. Surrounded by three tacklers and caught from behind at L12 for 43 yard gain.
3:52 1-10 S20 Hit solidly 4 yds behind LOS, spins, taken down for 2YL.
1:25 1-20 S9 Catches pass in left flat for 2YG to help Ben avoid safety. Whimper called for second holding penalty in two plays.
14:55 1-10 S18 Pitchout. Hit after 1 YG. Fights for 3 YG.
14:10 2-7 S21 Hit three yards behind LOS. Hit by three men. 1YL.
9:57 2-1 L36 Pitchout. Runs right, hit at LOS. Fights for 2YG and first down.
7:25 3-4 L7 Flares out of backfield, down and in. Catches pass at 3YL, fights and stretches forward for first down inside the 1YL.
6:45 1-G L1 Runs into brick wall 1 yd behind LOS. Lions push OL back into backfield. 1 YL
5:57 3-G L3 Bell trapped in backfield, slips and falls trying to change direction. 3YL. Defender got past Johnson and was already two yards into the backfield in perfect position the instant Bell got the handoff.
12:46 1-10 S3 Bell delays in backfield. Hit at LOS. NG
12:04 2-10 S3 Hit 1 yd behind LOS. Tackled by 4 players. NG
10:20 2-1 S29 Finds a seam, runs straight up the middle. 5YG, First down. (Not hit or trapped in backfield)
9:01 1-10 L44 Takes deep handoff 6 yds behind LOS. Evades two tacklers 5 yds behind LOS, fights gang tackle for net 2YL. TV announcer notes, "Bell has no chance."
7:30 4-2 L37 On fourth down, Bell runs fade pattern to right flat. Catches pass, gets four yards and key first down.
3:28 2-6 L30 Takes handoff 5 yds deep, hit at LOS, Spins for 6 yards and first down.
3:20 1-10 L24 Takes handoff 3 yards deep.Hit by 2 tacklers at LOS, 1 YG. Could have gone outside, but wisely decided to stay inside and remain inbounds to keep clock running.
The more times Homer looks at the video on NFL Rewind, the more apparent it becomes that the Lions controlled the line of scrimmage and Bell was repeatedly hit behind the line and before he had a chance to get going. When he had decent blocking, or found a seam, he took advantage and gained yardage. He was simply outstanding as a pass receiver and downfield blocker.
The series of plays in the 3rd quarter between 7:25 and 5:57 tell it all. Bell made an outstanding catch and run to get them within inches of the goal line. Then he tried to take it up the gut, but the Lions pushed the Steelers OL back, and, as the announcer said, he "ran into a brick wall." Then, he tried to take it outside, but at the instant he was handed the football, a defender was already two yards deep in the backfield and in perfect position to bring him down.
The offensive line did a decent job of pass protection, and that's about it. On running plays, they were constantly being pushed back, and Bell was often hit immediately after getting the handoff. He bulled forward or spun out of trouble, making the best out of bad situations time and time again. He didn't dance, he didn't fumble, and he didn't do anything stupid. He made the very best out of a difficult situation when his own offensive line was being out-physicaled.
Don't just look at the game stats, Bob. Look at the video. You will see that Le'Veon not only played a solid game in all facets, he rang the bell.