OTA's referred to as "football in shorts" by some , including Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, brings together an optimism about the upcoming season. Le'Veon Bell, selected by the Steelers in the second round with their 48th pick, is definitely having an impact on the two running backs who shared the opportunity to establish themselves as the feature back in the Steelers offense last season, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman.
The Steelers signed both of these running backs to restricted one year deals signaling that this could be their last chance to find a permanent role on the Steelers. Redman spent a portion of his offseason working out at a speed camp in Tampa, dropped 10 pounds and is looking to put the ankle issues he experienced last season behind him. "It was tough. I felt like it was my year to show I could be a number one running back," said Redman. He also added "There's going to be a heated competition in training camp and I'm ready for it. "
Dwyer also had his opportunity last season to showcase his ability as a number one running back. Sharing the same agent as Bell, the two have remained friends even though they are in competition for the number one feature back of the Steelers offense. "I think this year it's up to me. It's my job to lose and I'm going t do everything to fortify myself here," stated Dwyer. Last season , behind the running of Dwyer, Redman and the departed Mendenhall, the Steelers finished 26th in rushing yards , 27th in rushing TD's and yards per carry. Not exactly something to hang your hat on.
Bell, meanwhile has stated his desire to do what it takes to win. Bell, while at Michigan State, was used to having the ball in his hands at least 35 + times. Bell grew up idolizing Randy Moss , who on his best days had the ball in his hands maybe a dozen times. For Bell that wouldn't be enough. "I just want to win," Bell said. "I can do a lot of things. I'm a smart player so I can pick up things quick. I don't have many weaknesses and a lot of strengths." At 6 foot 2 , Bell has the body of a receiver. "When I was 4 years old, my uncle was throwing the ball to me, just working on me catching the ball," Bell said. "Eventually we got to the point of running routes and being able to get open. I just kept running them and kept getting better at it."
Bell's defining moment , which showcased his abilities, came last fall versus Boise State (my ex-wife's alma mater) where he rushed for 210 yards on 44 carries and added 6 receptions for 55 yards in a comeback 17-13 win for Michigan State. "I didn't even know I got the ball 50 times," Bell said. "I didn't ever realize I had the ball that many times because I was so in the zone just wanting us to win this game. I was looking up at the scoreboard and I see we're losing and I'm like, 'Give me the ball, I'm just trying to score.'"Bell's 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter propelled Michigan State to victory and sent him shooting up NFL draft boards. Now Bell finds himself tasked with trying to make sense of a crowded Steelers backfield searching for a starter after Rashard Mendenhall left for Arizona in the offseason.
For Dwyer and Redman ,time may be running out. Bell has already won raves from the coaching staff with his preparation, and his durability at Michigan State makes the Steelers hopeful he can take the pounding that comes with a heavy workload. It certainly wasn't a problem last fall, when his 382 carries led all of the NCAA's bowl subdivision.Considering his size, Bell has an ability to make himself small when a defender comes his way, allowing him to avoid the punishing collision that threaten to cut short a career."I'm either bouncing off guys or sliding past guys," he said. "Guys mostly just try to grab me and hold onto me. It's not like I take a lot of big hits."Bell, and the Steelers, would prefer he deliver them instead. And if he can bring a semblance of order to the backfield, even better. Bell insists he's up for anything."I'm not sure what they're looking for," he said. "I'm just trying to help this team go out there and compete and win games."
Le'Veon Bell wants the ball in his hands. Always.First down. Fourth down. First quarter or overtime. The Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back figures the best chance for his team to be successful is with the ball tucked under his right arm and his legs churning upfield."I just want to win," Bell said. "I can do a lot of things. I'm a smart player so I can pick up things quick. I don't have many weaknesses and a lot of strengths." It's this attitude that may propel Bell to "wake up" the Steelers running game. Time to "Ring for Bell"!