Steelers Film Session: Bell gets ringing endorsement

Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell dives for yardage againt the Bengals on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell dives for yardage againt the Bengals on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Photo by Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
| Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, 10:15 p.m.

Steelers rookie running back Le'Veon Bell might not have gaudy statistics, but that hasn't prevented him from being shoved down the throats of opponents early in games.

For the fourth consecutive week, the Steelers made sure their 21-year-old second-round pick got involved in the game early.

Bell touched the ball on seven of the Steelers' first eight plays and 12 of their 16 first-quarter plays Sunday against the Bengals. Bell gained only 47 yards on those 12 first-quarter plays, but it has become obvious that the Steelers want to set the tone early with Bell, regardless of his success.

Against the Dolphins, 10 of the first 15 plays and 11 of the team's 16 first-quarter plays involved Bell. Against the Ravens, the first five plays and seven of the first 14 went to Bell. Against the Browns, six of the first eight involved Bell.

In fact, during the past four games, 65 percent of the Steelers first-quarter plays involved Bell, with 39 percent of all his touches the past month coming during the opening 15 minutes.

That's been different from the early part of the season when the Steelers emphasized the screen pass to receivers early in games.

Against the Bengals, Bell touched the ball on the first offensive snap for the sixth consecutive game.

Bell has 78 touches in the first quarter this year but only 45 in the second.

Bell finished Sunday's game with 24 carries for 57 yards and five receptions for 50 yards, which pushed him over 1,000 combined yards this season. Bell missed the first three games with a foot injury.

• Ben Roethlisberger was asked after last week's loss to Miami why Le'Veon Bell didn't get more carries. Roethlisberger took it upon himself to get the ball to his rookie running back against the Bengals. The Steelers used the no-huddle 27 times and ran out of the offense more than they have all season. Coming into the game, the Steelers called 44 run plays in 13 games out of the no-huddle. Against the Bengals, they called 16 that resulted in 64 yards. Bell carried 11 times for 32 yards, with Felix Jones (3-17) and Jonathan Dwyer (2-15) getting the others.

• The Steelers didn't pressure Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton much and sacked him only once, but there was good reason. Out of his 45 dropbacks, Dalton held the ball less than 2 seconds 30 times, including seven of his first nine throws.

• The Steelers have allowed 23 pass plays of 25 yards or longer this year, and the Bengals have attempted 21 pass plays of 31 yards or longer. You would think the Bengals would try to beat the Steelers deep. Think again. The Bengals threw only one pass 20 yards or longer down the field, and that was on their final offensive play of the game.

• For the second straight week, cornerback Ike Taylor stayed on the right side of the formation for the entire game. However, that didn't mean Taylor didn't line up against Cincinnati's A.J. Green. Taylor lined up across Green 19 times, including 12 in the second half. Taylor was thrown at only six times while watching Green. He allowed four receptions for 51 yards.

• The Steelers gave Troy Polamalu a day off when it comes to playing out of position. Polamalu, who has seen an increase in snaps at inside linebacker over the past couple of weeks, was back at his strong safety position for most of the game. Polamalu lined up as a traditional dime linebacker only five times out of 71 defensive plays. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau used Polamalu at the line of scrimmage in the slot over top a receiver, tight end or running back 20 times, while the rest of the time he played middle-to-deep safety. Polamalu lined up at cornerback once when tight end Tyler Eifert flexed out wide.

• The Steelers used the no-huddle almost exclusively during the first half. They ran 22 of the 35 first-half plays and gained 119 of their 182 first-half yards out of the no-huddle. It could have been more if they didn't choose to huddle six times on the first play of drives, twice on the goal line and once because to injury. Roethlisberger went 11 of 12 for 82 yards and a touchdown. Roethlisberger is 86 of 139 for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns when not huddling this season.

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