TribLIVE

| Sports


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Rookie running back Bell vows to protect Big Ben

Steelers/NFL Videos

Block first, run second

The top running backs last year in pass blocking efficiency, a rating that measures pressures allowed on a per-snap basis:

Player PBE

1. Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers 98.8

2. Isaac Redman, Steelers 98.7

3. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina 98.6

4. Kevin Smith, Detroit 98.1

5. Alex Green, Green Bay 98.0

Source: Pro Football Focus

Friday, June 14, 2013, 11:49 p.m.
 

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 mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib

 

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Steelers

  1. Steelers notebook: Team extends Suisham’s contract through 2018
  2. Steelers rookie says Sam, his former roommate, has changed
  3. Steelers’ Blake prefers secondary job
  4. Steelers aim to create more turnovers this year with speedier defense
  5. Steelers notebook: Shoulder pads get technological boost for Ravens game
  6. Joe Greene only 2nd player in Steelers history to get number retired
  7. After years of lobbying, Big Ben has Steelers running the no-huddle
  8. Steelers notebook: Brown calls Sanders’ comments about Roethlisberger ‘terrible’
  9. Steelers hold high hopes for pass defense
  10. Inside the ropes: Shazier shows off speed
  11. GM Colbert expects Roethlisberger to end career with Steelers
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.