Steelers Film Session: Roethlisberger helps put Bell in position to succeed
You can't take anything away from Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell's performance Sunday against Green Bay when he carried the ball 24 times for 124 yards — both career highs — along with a touchdown.
However, the rookie second-round pick got a big assist from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for putting Bell in situations to succeed that helped the Steelers to their first 100-yard rusher in 23 games.
Roethlisberger has the ability to make the final determination of a play or switch a pass play into a run play at the line of scrimmage depending on what he sees from the defense. The majority of that occurs during the no-huddle offense.
Roethlisberger was able to decipher the best play for the best situation and a lot of them were getting Bell the ball with six men in the box.
Roethlisberger handed the ball off to Bell seven times when Green Bay showed only a six-man front, resulting in 67 yards, including his two biggest runs: 22 and 25 yards.
Bell ran four times for 22 yards with nine in the box, eight times for 18 yards with eight in the box and seven for 17 yards with seven within the a couple yards of the line of scrimmage.
Now, Roethlisberger wasn't responsible for switching every light front into a run play, but he had a very active second series when he made an “alert” at the line four consecutive times that resulted in a 22-yard Bell run with six in the box; a 36-yard pass to Antonio Brown with eight in the box; a toss to Bell to the weak side of the formation where Green Bay had only two defensive backs that went for 2 yards; and a check to an inside handoff out of the shotgun with six in the box that went for 7 yards to Bell.
It led to the Steelers' first score — a 1-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders with seven in the box despite it being an empty set.
Now, Bell did his share of the hard running, making people miss, choosing the right holes, stiff-arming defenders and even out-running others, but Roethlisberger and/or offensive coordinator Todd Haley put him in position to do such.
• Bell has been asked to run out of the shotgun a lot this year, especially over the past seven games. Almost 30 percent of Bell's carries since the New England game have come out of the shotgun formation. Since Week 8, Bell is averaging 3.7 yards per carry out of the shotgun and 3.1 when Roethlisberger is under center. Against the Packers, the Steelers ran out of the regular formation more even though the shotgun provided more yards per carry. Bell ran 20 times for 82 yards (4.2) when Roethlisberger was under center and six times for 40 yards (6.6) from the shotgun. This season, Bell averages 3.9 yards per carry out of the shotgun and 3.3 on other plays.
• Roethlisberger continued his mastery of the no-huddle. The Steelers ran the offense 42 percent of the time against the Packers, accounting for 46 percent of their yards and two touchdowns. Roethlisberger was 8 of 12 for 104 yards, including TDs to Matt Spaeth and Sanders, and called 13 run plays for 55 yards. Roethlisberger has completed 19 of 22 passes out of the no-huddle the past two weeks.
• The Steelers came into the game wanting to play a lot of nickel defense with rookie Terence Garvin playing inside linebacker. Dick LeBeau went to that seldom-used defense 12 times in the first half. However, when Garvin got injured late in the first half, he turned almost strictly to the dime with Troy Polamalu at linebacker. In the second half, LeBeau used the dime on 35 of the 39 snaps.
• Cortez Allen was a favorite target of Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn, especially early on. Allen was thrown at seven times out Flynn's first 10 passes and was targeted 14 times in the game. Allen allowed 8 catches — four each by Jarrett Boykin and James Jones — for 97 yards and a touchdown. However, Allen had an interception return for a touchdown in third quarter.
• The Steelers clock management at the end of the first half could've been better, but with only one timeout left, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was reluctant to use it in case he needed it to stop the clock late to attempt a field goal. Rewind three minutes earlier, and the Steelers could've very well had that timeout they needed. With 3:44 left in the half, the Steelers defense called timeout because they had 12 men on the field. The Steelers were in their nickel formation before the timeout and again after the timeout. The only player different was nose tackle Al Woods.
• Cornerback William Gay continued with his solid season. Gay was lined up across Green Bay's best receiver, Jordy Nelson, in the slot for the majority of the game and virtually took him out of the game. Nelson was targeted only five times and caught three passes.