- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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PITTSBURGH -- Maybe it is time for Lisa Bell to enlist the help of the Steelers’ coaches.
Bell, after all, has a legitimate objection when her son leaps a would-be tackler as if it were some trip wire he saw at the last second.
That is because Le'Veon Bellis not just the Steelers’ starting running back -- and biggest source of optimism for a ground game that still ranks near the bottom of the NFL. He is also her baby in as much as a 6-1, 244-pounder who dishes out as much punishment as he receives can be characterized as one.
“My mom, when I talk to her, she’s going to be talking out of me again,” Bell said with a sheepish grin following the Steelers’ 30-20 win over the Bengals.
The most nerve-fraying run for Lisa Bell on Sunday night also qualified as the most impressive one on a frigid night at Heinz Field. Bell’s 8-yard gain after hurdling Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick did not even count because of a holding penalty, but that was beside the point after the Steelers improved to 6-8 and averted a season sweep by the Bengals.
The leap, which is quickly becoming a Bell signature, fused a breathtaking display of instincts and athleticism. And runs like that show that Bell is not the plodding back his pedestrian rushing average this season (3.3 yards per carry) suggests.
Bell is still feeling his way as a runner at this level and sometimes you wonder if the rookie is a little too patient, though he does anything but dance in the backfield and certainly isn’t averse to lowering his head to initiate a collision. (See Baltimore game on Thanksgiving night).
The Steelers’ second-round pick last April has shown enough flashes to make you think he is going to be really good once everything comes together for him. That entails getting more running room from his offensive line and taking better advantage of the openings his line provides for him. It will come, as will the first 100-yard rushing game of Bell's NFL career.
One aspect of Bell’s game that won’t change is his going airborne despite his mother’s worries. It is pure instinct and is something his coaches have not tried to eliminate from Bell's repertoire.
“They just said be smart with it and be safe because you once you leave your feet you don’t have any control of your body anymore,” said Bell, who joined Franco Harris and Bam Morris as the only rookie running backs in Steelers history to gain at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage. “It’s a risk, but I feel like I do it at the perfect time. I haven’t gotten messed up on it yet and hopefully I don’t.”
They are leaps of faith Bell is willing to take.
And ones his mother will have to accept.