2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Versatile RB Bell flourishing for Steelers

    2013-12-18 15:37

(Eds: With AP Photos.)
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Le'Veon Bell listens to his instincts, not his mother, in his job as the Pittsburgh Steelers' running back.

A half-dozen times this season, Bell has found himself in the open field with an opponent taking aim at his legs. Rather than churn for a few extra yards, Bell instead launches himself into the air as if to turn the defender into the world's largest hurdle.

Sometimes it works out, as it did when he cleared Cincinnati's Dre Kirkpatrick for an 8-yard gain in last week's 30-20 win over the Bengals. Sometimes it doesn't. Later, Bell tried the same move only to fall awkwardly to the ground.

Both times Bell was disobeying an order from his mother, who is worried the laws of physics will eventually catch up to her son. Bell does his best to avoid the topic when it comes up.

''When I talk to her, she's going to try and talk me out of it again,'' Bell said with a laugh. ''But it's something that really happens naturally.''

Like just about everything else on the field for the versatile back who is becoming a vital part of an offense trying to keep the Steelers (6-8) on the fringe of the playoff race.

Bell has a chance to break several team records over the final two weeks, heady territory for a player who missed half of training camp and the first three games of the season with a left foot injury that seemed to hint at fragility.

Hardly.

His next carry will be the most by a rookie in team history. He's nine receptions from surpassing John L. Williams' club mark for most catches by a running back in a single season. Oh, and he's 202 yards from scrimmage short of surpassing Franco Harris for the most productive season by a rookie running back on a team that has been around for 81 years.

The yards have been hard-earned ones. Playing behind an offensive line in a constant state of flux, Bell is averaging a paltry 3.26 yards per carry, 44th-best among qualified backs.

The numbers, however, are a bit deceiving. Bell has spent most of the last six weeks in an offense that works heavily out of the shotgun, meaning Bell is often standing still when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hands him the ball. What open space Bell finds is often created by twisting his 6-foot-1, 230-pound frame through slivers that most backs couldn't squeeze through.

''I don't look at it as tougher, just different,'' Bell said.

The Steelers chose Bell over Alabama star Eddie Lacy because of Bell's diversity. His 43 receptions aren't all simple dump-offs or screens. Against the Bengals, he converted a fourth-and-4 from the Cincinnati 31 by lining up in the slot and running an out pattern before extending his hands to make the catch.

''He does some amazing things in the passing game,'' said Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown. ''His yards from scrimmage is amazing and he continues to get better and better as the game unfolds.''

Bell is averaging over 24 touches over the last four weeks, looking very much like the workhorse who led the nation in rushing attempts at Michigan State last fall. At age 21, he's one of the youngest backs in the NFL, yet carries himself with a maturity that has quickly won over his teammates and coaches.

Pressed this week on why the Steelers chose Bell over the more accomplished Lacy, coach Mike Tomlin called it an ''easy'' decision based on Pittsburgh's needs after the team made no attempt to re-sign mercurial Rashard Mendenhall.

''To be honest with you, he was kind of ready-made ... when we got him,'' Tomlin said. ''If you look at his numbers from Michigan State and look at his tape from Michigan State, he was a man for all situations for those guys.''

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

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The Seattle Seahawks have declared WR Chris Matthews, DL Demarcus Dobbs, WR Kevin Norwood, C Max Unger, OT Russell Okung, TE Tony Moeaki, DL Travian Robertson inactive for Week 16.

Ahmad DixonDec 21 11:52a

The Minnesota Vikings have declared SS Ahmad Dixon, LB Anthony Barr, OT Carter Bykowski, OG Charlie Johnson, TE Kyle Rudolph, CB Shaun Prater, FB Zach Line inactive for Week 16.

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The Houston Texans have declared WR DeVier Posey, TE Garrett Graham, LB Jason Ankrah, S Josh Aubrey, LB Mike Mohamed, QB Tom Savage, OG Xavier Su'a-Filo inactive for Week 16.

A.J. KleinDec 21 11:52a

The Carolina Panthers have declared LB A.J. Klein, OG Amini Silatolu, CB Carrington Byndom, OT David Foucault, RB DeAngelo Williams, DL Kyle Love, SS Robert Lester inactive for Week 16.

Charles GodfreyDec 21 11:52a

The Atlanta Falcons have declared CB Charles Godfrey, LB James Anderson, OG Jon Asamoah, CB Ricardo Allen, QB Sean Renfree, DL Stansly Maponga, LB Tyler Starr inactive for Week 16.

Jamarca SanfordDec 21 11:52a

The New Orleans Saints have declared SS Jamarca Sanford, DL Lawrence Virgil, LB Moise Fokou, WR Seantavius Jones, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, OT Terron Armstead, RB Travaris Cadet inactive for Week 16.

Justin BrownDec 21 11:52a

The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared OG Chris Hubbard, DL Clifton Geathers, CB Ike Taylor, WR Justin Brown, QB Landry Jones, TE Matt Spaeth, SS Troy Polamalu inactive for Week 16.

Clifton GeathersDec 21 11:52a

The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared OG Chris Hubbard, DL Clifton Geathers, CB Ike Taylor, WR Justin Brown, QB Landry Jones, TE Matt Spaeth, SS Troy Polamalu inactive for Week 16.

Carl BradfordDec 21 11:42a

The Green Bay Packers have declared DL Bruce Gaston, LB Carl Bradford, CB Davon House, C Garth Gerhart, WR Jeff Janis, TE Justin Perillo, QB Scott Tolzien inactive for Week 16.

Chris McCainDec 21 11:42a

The Miami Dolphins have declared LB Chris McCain, OT Dallas Thomas, RB Daniel Thomas, CB Don Jones, WR Matt Hazel, OG Nate Garner, WR Rishard Matthews inactive for Week 16.

Arthur BrownDec 21 11:42a

The Baltimore Ravens have declared LB Arthur Brown, DL Casey Walker, CB Chris Greenwood, C Gino Gradkowski, WR Michael Campanaro, OG Ryan Jensen, DL Terrence Cody inactive for Week 16.

Aaron MurrayDec 21 11:42a

The Kansas City Chiefs have declared QB Aaron Murray, RB Charcandrick West, WR Donnie Avery, C Eric Kush, OT Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, CB Marcus Cooper, DL Nick X. Williams inactive for Week 16.

Gary BarnidgeDec 21 11:42a

The Cleveland Browns have declared OT Andrew McDonald, TE Gary Barnidge, RB Glenn Winston, CB Joe Haden, DB K'Waun Williams, WR Rodney Smith, OT Vinston Painter inactive for Week 16.

Chris ConteDec 21 11:42a

The Chicago Bears have declared FS Chris Conte, QB David Fales, OG Kyle Long, PK Robbie Gould, CB Terrance Mitchell, DL Trevor Scott, DL Will Sutton inactive for Week 16.

Dakota DozierDec 21 11:33a

The New York Jets have declared OL Dakota Dozier, SS Jaiquawn Jarrett, QB Matt Simms, FS Rontez Miles, DL T.J. Barnes, WR Walter Powell, OG Wesley Johnson inactive for Week 16.

Alfonzo DennardDec 21 11:33a

The New England Patriots have declared CB Alfonzo Dennard, OG Dan Connolly, RB James White, OT Jordan Devey, WR Julian Edelman, CB Kyle Arrington, RB LeGarrette Blount inactive for Week 16.

Anthony CollinsDec 21 11:32a

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have declared OT Anthony Collins, FB Evan Rodriguez, CB Isaiah Frey, DL Lawrence Sidbury, RB Mike James, WR Robert Herron, WR Solomon Patton inactive for Week 16.

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Zach ErtzDec 20 07:42p

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San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers (back) is active Saturday, Dec. 20, for Week 16.

Ryan MathewsDec 20 07:22p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (ankle) is inactive Saturday, Dec. 20, for Week 16.

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The San Diego Chargers have declared LB Cordarro Law, DL Damion Square, CB Greg Ducre, WR Keenan Allen, P Mike Scifres, DL Ryan Carrethers, RB Ryan Mathews inactive for Week 16.

Carlos HydeDec 20 07:12p

San Francisco 49ers RB Carlos Hyde (ankle) is inactive Saturday, Dec. 20.

Ahmad BrooksDec 20 07:02p

The San Francisco 49ers have declared LB Ahmad Brooks, OG Andrew Tiller, RB Carlos Hyde, OG Joe Looney, QB Josh X. Johnson, WR Stevie Johnson, CB Tramaine Brock inactive for Week 16.

DeAndre HopkinsDec 20 06:42p

Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) will be a game-time decision Sunday, Dec. 21, after not practicing all week.

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