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Rookie Le'Veon Bell confident he will improve once he gets caught up

| Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 7:36 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell stretches for extra yards against the Jets in the third quarter Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Le'Veon Bell doesn't like to bounce runs outside, but he found himself doing it on a couple of occasions against the New York Jets.

He missed a couple of holes and hit a couple. He blew a couple of assignments and was flawless on others — just what you would expect from a rookie.

The Steelers used a second-round pick on Bell in April's draft with the hopes that he could partner with their ever-growing pedigree of offensive linemen to revitalize the run game.

Those hopes — just like Bell adjusting to the NFL — have been slowed by injuries.

“The thing about it is that he's made some good runs,” guard Ramon Foster said. “Once he gets into a groove I think he will see more of what he can do. I think the kid is a special back, though.”

Bell still is learning the nuances of being an NFL running back and trying to get caught up for time missed because of a knee injury in training camp followed by a foot injury that kept him off the field for another six weeks.

Even though Steelers coach Mike Tomlin “wasn't displeased with Le'Veon Bell's performance in any way” against the Jets, Bell knows there's a lot he needs to improve.

“I am still getting used to the NFL game, and I am going to get better with time,” he said. “The more and more reps I get, the better I am going to get. I have to do whatever I have to do to gain yards and help this offense move the ball.”

Bell has been getting a crash course since returning from his injury.

Despite not taking his first handoff in a real game until Sept. 29, Bell leads Steelers running backs with 109 snaps — 30 more than Felix Jones. Bell has 91 yards on 32 carries (2.8 yards per carry) with 50 of those coming after contact.

“With growth and time and as the season goes on, he is going to be really good at seeing what he needs to see,” Foster said. “Then you will see what he's all about.”

According to Bell, the game still is moving faster than he would like.

“The game is going to start slowing down for me,” he said. “I am the toughest judge on myself. If I feel like I missed a hole or felt like I didn't finish a block or whatever it is, I always do my best to work on it and try to fix it. There are a lot of things I can work on and get better at.”

Bell's biggest issue has been not being able to break long runs, and a lot of that comes with being decisive about hole selection and cuts.

While at Michigan State, Bell had a double-digit run in 27 of his 40 games. Bell's longest run this year has been 11 yards.

“They are there, and they are gone quick,” Bell said. “The holes aren't big. The holes in college and the NFL are way different. They are small, and you to get in there when you can. It is something I have to get adjusted to. There are always yards left out there.”

Tomlin disagrees.

“I thought he did a great job of picking vision and putting the ball where it was supposed to be and running with the type of demeanor that we desire,” Tomlin said.

Tomlin cited a first-down run of 7 yards in the third quarter against the Jets on which Bell made a decisive read that set up a third-and-short. It allowed the Steelers to call a play-action pass that resulted in a touchdown to Emmanuel Sanders.

“I am going to get better,” Bell said.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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