He was saddled with sour grapes and the burden of decreasing playing time and adding insult to injury Bell—his closest friend on the team—was stealing his shine and among the NFL leaders in yardage.
Blount had lofty aspirations when he signed with the Steelers as a free agent after the 2013 season. He knew that the Steelers franchise had lost its way and the team’s lack of playoff success could be attributed to its inability to find a consistent, workhorse back.
Blount signed a two-year, $3.85 million contract with the Steelers in hopes of solving that dilemma, but the 27-year-old rushed for just 266 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games before his release. The Steelers knew he just wasn’t that dude. Obviously, he thought he was. Rather than catch a straight right to the chops, HC Mike Tomlin and Co. decided to part ways.
It didn’t take long for the perennial garbage pile-sniffer Pats to recycle Blount and put him to use. In his first game with the AFC East Champs—a 34-9 thrashing of the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium—Blount got the bulk of the carries, gaining 78 yards on 12 rushing attempts with two touchdowns against Detroit’s No. 1 run defense.
Maybe being so close and in constant competition was wearing on the two and Blount finally just took his ball and went home.
"It was surprising because I didn't see that coming," said Bell, whose 204-yard effort against the Titans fueled Blount’s tantrum and sealed his fate.
That’s the same thing defenders are saying when they grapple with Bell and The Burgh; “I didn't see that coming.”
Bell now has the coveted burden of carrying Pittsburgh’s running game as they control their own playoff destiny over these last two games. The 81-yarder he ripped off this season is proof of his explosiveness and Bell continues to wreck shop.
The 6-1, 244-pound second-year stunner out of Michigan State is second in the NFL in rushing with 1, 278 yards (DeMarco Murray leads with 1,687) and is averaging a robust 4.9 yards per carry. He’s bumrushed his moment in the sun and put skills on display that rival the toughness of a Jerome Bettis and the flair of a Franco Harris. He can jet too.
A workhorse in the truest sense, Bell handles 90 snaps a game like he’s chewing through gravy for a machine that leads the NFL in total offense. His surge is a continuation of the soul-for-real-deal skills that saw him flex for over 1,700 yards in his last season at MSU.
Bell’s NFL-ready skills have jumped off the screen and rendered all pretenders obsolete. Remember Pittsburgh’s running back-by-committee system of the past few years? Well, Bell put that unsuccessful experiment to rest early. Once he overcame the setbacks of a mid-foot sprain that cost him the first three weeks of his rookie season in ‘13, Bell appeared in his first regular season game with the Steelers in Week 4 in London against the Minnesota Vikings and in a late-December game against division rival Cleveland, Bell set the Steelers record for scrimmage yards by a rookie, previously held by Harris.
This season he came out with pistols blazing and became the first running back in Steelers franchise history to start the year with seven straight games of 100 yards of total offense. Then he elevated his assault to NFL records and on December 7, against the Bengals, Bell tied icon Walter “Sweetness” Payton for most consecutive games with at least 200 all-purpose yards (3).
Bell, the oldest of Lisa Bell’s three sons, also has 76 catches out of the backfield proving to be a valuable asset to aging QB Ben Roethlisberger . Multi-faceted weaponry is the Fountain of Youth for savvy, Super Bowl-caliber QBs late in their careers.
Bell is the perfect complimentary element in the Steelers turnt up three-headed attack, which has become increasingly prolific with the emergence of wide receiver Antonio Brown (NFL-leading 115 grabs and 1,498 yards).
Actually Pittsburgh—a franchise that traditionally caters to the honest and loyal temperament of its fanatics—is satisfying a legion of divided fans that share in their desire to see the team do well, but are burdened by a philosophical divide about approach.
The old-head Steelers fans want them to ground and pound it and destroy cats on D. The passing game is just an effective and TV-friendly accessory in the wars within the trenches.
Tomlin Era Steelers fans want the team to continue to open it up and spread it out as Big Ben—with two c’hips already in the pocket—continues to obliterate franchise passing marks.
Unfortunately, the Steelers have seen better secondary’s on some college squads and that “bend but don’t break” Greg Williams, ‘09 Saints D is risky business against precision gunslingers like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and the like.
The inconsistency of the Steelers D has been a burden on a great offense and left them in a position where they have to play two other contenders in Kansas City and Cincinnati to finish off the season and advance to the playoffs. The Steelers could fall anywhere between the No. 3 AFC seed and out of the playoffs.
A 35-32 loss to the Saints on Nov. 30th marked the seventh time, dating to the past season that the Steelers have lost to a team with a losing record. Three times this season, the Steelers have lost to a team that was at least three games under .500. The team did, however, rebound to beat AFC North rival Cincinnati and the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
At least everybody’s on board offensively. Bell’s ground game is on point and the Steelers throw 50 times a game. Best of both world’s as R Kelly and Jay-Z once, briefly said.
With Bell capable of toting the rock 30 times or catching 10 passes Tomlin’s troops will make extensive use of their new toy in these last two NFL regular season games. He’s a terminator in black and gold, providing that final authentic Ohio piece to the Steelers Bones, Thugs and Harmony attack.