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Steelers Must Run Bell Ragged to Win Division

No Super Bowl contender has endured a more volatile season so far than the Pittsburgh Steelers. After starting the season an AFC-best 4-1, the team hit a four-game losing streak, only to break it with back to back wins over the less-than-threatening Browns and Colts. But in the race to the playoffs, one aspect of Pittsburgh’s game has become clear: they must continue to call Le’Veon Bell’s number if they’re to achieve anything in 2016.
The best back in football has returned to mid-season form over the last fortnight, keeping the Steelers’ offense in rythym, making yards out of positively nothing, and most importantly, keeping Pittsburgh’s leaky defense off the field. Even against teams expecting the run, Bell’s incomparable patience and vision has kept the down and distance manageable, freeing up a passing game that has lacked depth this season.
In week 11, Bell had over 200 yards from scrimmage against Cleveland. His potent running game took the pressure off Ben Roethlisberger who, despite being a franchise quarterback, is susceptible to the odd poor performance. Big Ben put the ball in the air 36 times, but only managed 167 yards of offense.
Compare that to Bell, whose 28 carries were good for 146 yards; far more productive in the yards-per-attempt department with the added benefit of wearing out the opposing front seven and keeping the clock moving.
On Thanksgiving night, Bell was equally as efficient with 120 yards on 23 carries. This time, though, Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown lightened the load with 5 connections for 3 scores. The offensive game plan was a textbook example of the run setting up the pass. As the Colts brought the safety closer and closer to the line of scrimmage in an attempt to neutralize Bell, Ben and AB stretched the field and consistently kept the game beyond doubt.
World-beaters they aren’t, but wins against lesser opponents are a great way to build confidence, especially for a team with its share of road worries of late. Pittsburgh doesn’t play again until next Sunday when it hosts the Giants, but Bell’s presence must be felt early and often to secure a third straight win.
The AFC North title (and the right to host at least one playoff game) hinges entirely on Bell’s production through the season’s final five weeks.

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