Kevin Gorman: Le'Veon Bell stiff-arms Bengals into submission
Le'Veon Bell made a move and heard a Cincinnati Bengals defender say what everyone else at Heinz Field was thinking.
Oh, my goodness.
Juice was loose, and nobody was ready for what came next, especially not Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
After making linebackers Vincent Ray, Nick Vigil and Vontaze Burfict miss, Bell drilled Kirkpatrick with as wicked a stiff-arm as we've seen by a Steelers running back.
“I don't know what happened or what came over me on that play,” Bell said, “but that was one of the better stiff-arms of my life.”
Bell turned a simple, second-and-2 check-down pass into a highlight-reel 42-yard gain, stiff-arming Cincinnati into submission in the second quarter of the Steelers' 29-14 AFC North victory Sunday.
It was a play that had even Steelers Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis shaking his head in admiration.
“Impressive stiff-arm,” Bettis said. “My stiff-arm was never as good as his.
“That's what a special player does: You find a way to extend the play. That could have been a good gain, but he turned it into a 40-yard play because of his ability. That's the gift that he has.”
Bell was the gift that kept on giving, wearing out the Bengals by rushing for 134 yards on 35 carries and catching three passes for 58 yards.
It followed a 179-yard rushing game at Kansas City, marking the first time in his career that Bell rushed for 125 yards in back-to-back regular-season games and becoming the first Steeler to do so since Willie Parker in 2007.
“This is what we've come to expect from him,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “He's rolling well, but when he does it, it's the product of a lot of things. The guys up front, obviously. I thought the wideout perimeter blocking was excellent. It's an 11-man job to run the football for us.”
Bell started by crediting the blocking of fullback Roosevelt Nix and the offensive line, noting they were the reason the Bengals weren't filling holes with the same ferocity in the second half. But this was as good as I've seen Bell run, whether it was making Bengals miss or breaking their attempts to arm tackle him.
“It's great seeing him get loose,” Steelers right guard David DeCastro said. “He's such a special player. You really appreciate when you see him do it, hitting the holes hard, guys blocking and pushing the pile. That's fun.
“That's the Le'Veon we know and have come to love. It's great when your stars play like stars.”
The score was tied 14-14 when Bell broke that big play to the Bengals' 17. The Steelers settled for the first of Chris Boswell's five field goals.
As good as the Steelers offense was, it converted only 2 of 11 third downs and 1 of 6 in the red zone, including 1 of 3 in goal-to-go scenarios. Or this would have been a bigger blowout.
But as Bell got better, the Bengals got worse. They didn't score again, as the Steelers dominated the second half. And it started with that stiff-arm, on a play where Bell claimed he had tunnel vision and didn't see the trail of Bengals he left in his wake.
“When you have a play like that, especially early in the game, it gives you more confidence throughout the course of the game,” Bell said. “I felt like, ‘I broke a big run. Now, I've got to wear these guys out. I've got to make them not want to tackle me anymore.' Over the course of the game, I started feeling like that.”
Bettis was among those impressed, saying Bell has “a chance to be one of the best ever,” knowing that his rushing records are at risk as long as Bell is wearing the black and gold.
And Nix, the engine to his caboose, believes that Bell is on fire.
“Le'Veon's a beast, man,” Nix said. “Every time he touches the ball, something magical can happen.
“He's no shortage of a physical back, neither. He used to be bigger, so he runs hard. Don't think just because he's really patient that he won't bring some power with it.”
And use a stiff-arm for submission.