Tiki Barber doesn’t rave a whole lot about too many running backs, but he raves a ton about Le’Veon Bell. Do you want to know why? It’s because Bell is a complete back. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, make explosive plays in the receiving game, run tough between the tackles and still beat defenders to the outside.
In short, there’s nothing Bell can’t do.
“It’s an honor to hear that from Tiki Barber because that’s a guy I grew up watching each and every week,” Bell said.
Well, now Barber is watching Bell. We all are.
The Pittsburgh Steelers running back had 2,215 total yards and 11 touchdowns this season. His 1,361 rushing yards were second-most in the league, and he finished second among tailbacks in receptions (83) and first in receiving yards (854). He also went the entire season without fumbling.
“It felt amazing,” Bell said of his 2014 season. “I felt a lot more comfortable. I just think the more and more I play and continue to practice and lift and learn the plays, I got better. I’m just going to continually get better. I think me losing the weight, I think that helped me out a lot. I’m going to continue to try to get better each and every year.”
Unfortunately, Bell was injured in Pittsburgh’s 27-17 win over Cincinnati in Week 17, hyperextended his right knee after a 19-yard reception in the third quarter. Bengals safety Reggie Nelson provided the hit, forcing Bell to leave the game and miss the Steelers’ opening-round playoff game against Baltimore.
Pittsburgh lost, 30-17.
“Man, it sucked so bad,” Bell said. “Having to watch my team go battle and I couldn’t go to battle with those guys, (it was tough). Being with those guys for 17 weeks, whenever they needed me, they called on my number. But the fact that they couldn’t call on me, that’s what kind of sucked the most. And watching that game just unfold – and I wasn’t able to do anything about it – it just kind of sucked for me.”
Pittsburgh trailed just 10-9 at halftime but was outscored 20-6 over the next one-and-a-half quarters. The Steelers rushed 19 times for 68 yards (3.6 yards per carry), and their leading rusher was Josh Harris, who carried nine times for 25 yards (2.8 yards per carry).
Bell’s knee is back to about 90 percent, and he’ll obviously be ready to go next season. Unfortunately, there’s not much running backs can do to protect themselves after making a catch.
“I’ll tell you what: You can’t control that at all,” Bell said. “The hit wasn’t as bad as it looked, thankfully. (But) like you said, catching the ball when you can’t se a guy coming for your knee, it kind of sucks. When you’re running, you kind of see (when a) guy comes, so you kind of brace yourself. But when you catch it, it’s a little different.”