Rookie running back Bell vows to protect Big Ben
Le'Veon Bell could be the best running back on the Steelers' roster, and the rookie has yet to take a snap with shoulder pads on, let alone one in an NFL game.
So you would figure it would be only a matter of time before Bell races up the depth chart past lesser pedigree running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman.
That might be the case, but it definitely won't happen until Bell proves he can play at the NFL level when he doesn't have the ball in his hands.
“Around here, if you don't block, you don't play,” Dwyer said.
That's a longstanding unwritten rule around the league when it comes to ball carriers. For running backs coach Kirby Wilson, it is not just tough talk.
“That's anybody. That's any running back,” Wilson said. “You have to be able to protect the quarterback or you won't play. That's not just in Pittsburgh. That's in every NFL city.”
Bell has been brought up to speed quickly on Wilson's top rule over the past month at spring practices and has bought into the importance of the running backs doing their part in protecting $102 million quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Wilson won't hesitate to keep Bell on the bench, regardless of how well he runs the ball, if he can't trust him picking up a blitzing linebacker.
“I am looking forward to it,” Bell said. “I am a big guy (6-1, 244), too. There are other running backs that are a lot smaller than me who can protect great. I am going to watch technique, learn technique and use my size to my advantage. I know how important it is.”
Even though Bell was an excellent blocker at Michigan State, it's impossible to project that into the NFL. Wilson, who has been coaching running backs in the NFL for 16 years, said the final thing that comes for a rookie is pass protection because there is so much more technique involved than running the ball.
Bell hasn't been able to show his blocking ability this spring due to contact restrictions during the offseason, but he has been working diligently on the craft with two of the best — Dwyer and Redman, who last year finished 1-2, respectively, in Pro Football Focus' pass blocking efficiency rating.
“He has bought into it already, that's for sure,” Redman said of Bell. “He said he likes pass blocking. I worked with him a little bit last week on technique, so hopefully when put pads on he will be good at it.”
The faster he gets it, the faster he will get to show why the Steelers didn't hesitate to use a second-round pick — one of their highest on a running back in three decades — with the hope of providing a much-needed spark to a ground game coming off its second worst rushing season since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978.
Bell sits behind Dwyer, Redman, Baron Batch and LaRod Stephens-Howling on the depth chart heading into training camp July 26, but that could change by early September.
“I am going to come in here and compete and do the best that I can,” Bell said. “I am not promised a spot or saying that I am a starter. I am just going to come in and compete and work with whatever role I get.”
And that role will most definitely be determined by how he blocks.
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rookie Bryant sparks deep passing game for Steelers in victory
- For all but 2 minutes vs. Steelers, Texans played ‘pretty good game’
- Steelers-Texans game changers: Bell’s 43-yard catch provides spark
- Steelers looking for Spence to step up game at inside linebacker
- Steelers notebook: Adams replaces concussed Gilbert
- Steelers use 3 late first-half TDs to stun Texans
- Rossi: Steelers’ season all about going big
- Snapshot in time: Comparing Cowher, Tomlin drafts
- Steelers notebook: WR Brown recalls Houston’s Watt as teammates at CMU
- Steelers rookie Tuitt prepares for big role
- Robinson: Big Ben on pace to break Favre’s record — for sacks