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Le'Veon Bell's Unstoppable Versatility Turns Steelers from Solid to Scary

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 3, 2016

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 02:  Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers rushes against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half during the game at Heinz Field on October 2, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

It was a simple moment, the first of many, the first of what the Steelers missed with the absence of Le'Veon Bell and an indicator of what's to come.

Bell wasn't the star of the tantalizing atomization of the Kansas City Chiefs, 43-14, on Sunday night in Pittsburgh. The stars were Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger and an offensive roster that, despite a dizzying loss to the Eagles last week, remains the deepest and nastiest in football.

But Bell is the warp core of the Steelers. He long has been and long will be. A simple moment, early in the game, is a reason why.

While Brown was impregnating the air with post-touchdown gyrations and Big Ben was doing Big Ben things, Bell was quietly working his way back into the offense after his suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Early in the game, he lined up split wide, the move forcing the Chiefs to cover him with a linebacker.

Bell ran a simple down-and-in, dipping to the outside, juking a bit, then cutting inside. No linebacker can cover Bell. Short gain. Bell was back.

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It was so simple, yet so important, getting him back in the flow, and now that Bell has returned, the rest of the NFL should be terrified.

The Steelers offense without Bell is formidable but can be stopped. The Steelers offense with Bell is Godzilla. It would take Mothra, Mechagodzilla, Luke Cage and a hand phaser to stop the Steelers now. I'm mixing my sci-fi references, but you get the point.

Pro Football Focus charted Bell's first 32 snaps. He spent 19 in the backfield as a runner, seven as an outside wideout, five in the slot and one at tight end. That's just incredible.

DeAngelo Williams has been outstanding as Bell's replacement and will go down as one of the most underappreciated players in recent league history. But he's no Bell. Then again, few backs are. Bell is this generation's version of Marcus Allen, and I do not use that comparison lightly, since Allen was one of the most versatile to ever do it. Bell is that good.

About the only thing that can stop Bell is a bong. Certainly, few defenses can.

Make no mistake about what we saw Sunday night in the demolition of the Chiefs. The Steelers destroyed a really good defense, and it's no coincidence they did it with Bell back in the lineup.

No, Kansas City didn't get much help from its Pleistocene-aged offense that considers a checkdown to be orgasmic, and Brown did the scoring and dancing, but Bell's abilities are what transforms the Pittsburgh offense from good to frightening.

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Defenses were content to let Williams beat them as they shifted many of their resources to stop Brown and the passing game. Williams is good, but he's more of a plodder.

Defenses aren't willing to test Bell. You saw it with the Chiefs. When Bell was in the game, they ran a more balanced defense, because Bell was everywhere, and the Chiefs were scared of him. This is one of the reasons Brown has scored a billion touchdowns. Not solely because Brown is so talented, but also because of scheme and Bell.

Bell finished the game with 18 carries for 144 yards and five catches for 34 yards...in his first game back...against a good defense. NBC said it was the most total yards for Bell since Dec. 7, 2014. And he still has to be at least somewhat rusty.

What happens when this dude gets back in a groove?

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Bell is so good, he makes the Steelers the team to beat in the AFC. I don't think it's the Patriots. It's close. Really close. But New England's defense just got torched by the Bills.

The Steelers, with Bell, can score tons of points on any defense—including Denver's. That's how good Bell is. That's how he changes everything.

The only caveat with Bell is of course what happens off the field. He's had multiple issues with drug tests, and that's a problem that could creep into play at any time. This isn't hyperbole or football fear-mongering. This is a fact because this has been, equal to his on-field greatness, a part of who Le'Veon Bell is. He started last season with a suspension as well.

"Obviously I made two mistakes," he told NBC's Michele Tafoya after the game. "I'm a human being. I'm not a perfect person...I'm going to try and do everything to keep moving forward."

If he stays out of trouble, and he stays healthy, few teams will touch the Steelers. That's how good Bell is.

   

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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