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Improved line paving way for Steelers Le'Veon Bell
2014-12-10

Le'Veon Bell to the left. Heath Miller, David DeCastro and Will Johnson leading the way. Again. And again. And again. At least, until the Cincinnati Bengals found out a way to stop the blossoming second-year running back.

''The offensive line was like, 'Man, we feel good about it,''' Bell said. ''As a runner, I'm running whatever the offensive linemen want to run.''

It showed. Time and again Bell dashed and darted through increasingly large holes late in Sunday's 42-21 victory over the tired, lethargic Bengals. When he was done, 26 carries, 185 yards and two touchdowns later, so was Cincinnati.

''We ran the same play two, three, four times in a row, consecutively,'' Bell said. ''Those guys just couldn't stop it. So we continued to run with it.''

Funny how often Pittsburgh victories follow suit. The Steelers (8-5) are 5-1 when the NFL's second leading rusher runs the ball at least 20 times a game. Considering his production spike in recent weeks, due in large part to the cohesive play in front of him, don't expect Bell's workload to lessen anytime soon
Pressed on if he ever saw Bell winded on a day he had 32 touches in all - including six receptions for 50 yards and a score - and left tackle Kelvin Beachum just smiled.

''Not at all, not at all, not at all,'' Beachum said.

Consider it a testament to Bell's growing reputation as one of the league's most durable backs and the fact he's not taking a lot of abuse. It helps that he's often past the really big guys on the defensive line before getting hit.

''The offensive line has done a great job of opening holes for me,'' Bell said. ''On check downs, Ben (Roethlisberger) is doing a good job of getting me the ball and allowing me to run with some space. So you've got to give a lot of credit to the offense and the offensive coaching staff.''

One that is committing to the run even with Roethlisberger in the midst of the best season of his career, even with no tested depth behind Bell after the team cut LeGarrette Blount last month. Needing a victory against the Bengals to have any chance of tracking them down in the AFC North, offensive coordinator Todd Haley put the bulk of the load on Bell's increasingly broad shoulders.
It was also a vote of confidence for a talented but erratic line that has taken its share of criticism over the last three seasons amid injuries and inconsistent play. Those issues have largely disappeared. The Steelers have only started three different line combinations this season, giving the group littered with high draft picks time to gel.

''Those guys physically and mentally are in the prime of their career,'' coach Mike Tomlin said. ''A lot of three, four, five-year guys. Guys have grown and grown up together.''

And they will be tested together as a three-game stretch looms that will define Pittsburgh's season. As potent as the Steelers have looked at times, they've also had trouble finishing off weaker teams. Pittsburgh squeaked out victories against Jacksonville and Tennessee and fell to Tampa Bay and the New York Jets. It can't happen again, not with the four teams in the AFC North separated by 1.5 games.

The Steelers are hoping to return to the playoffs for the first time in three years.

Beachum understands the line doesn't have to be great all the time, just good enough to give Bell the sliver of light he needs to turn an ordinary run into something else entirely.

''We know what's at stake,'' Beachum said. ''It's that time of the year, its AFC North football and we got playoff hopes on the line so I think everybody sucking it up and just trying to find a way to push through.''

NOTES: Tomlin said linebacker James Harrison (knee), cornerback Ike Taylor (knee) and right tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle) will have a chance to play on Sunday against Atlanta (5-8).




Ward: NFL rules forced me to tackle low
2013-12-09

It was a decision I made to make a tackle on a big man, Ward said.
So Ward hit Gronkowski low, and the timing of the play mean Apuestas Deportivas t that Wards shoulder drove into Gronkowskis right knee as Gronkowski planted to run.
Gronkowskis knee bent in a way it is not supposed to bend, and he flipped in the air before landing. It was evident immediately that Gronkowski had a serious knee injury, believed now to be a torn ACL.
Ward thought he hit Gronkowski in the quad and didnt realize the seriousness of the situation until 20 seconds later, when a teammate told him the tight end was down. Ward took a knee.
I honestly prayed for him, Ward said.
And when Gronkowski was carted off, Ward approached him to shake his hand.
My intention is never to hurt anyone, Ward said. Thats not what this game is about. Thats not how I play. I hate to see guys go down with any kind of injury. I just wanted him to know, whether he accepted it or not, it wasnt an intentional hit. We have to play this game. We have to play the way that they force us to.
Which means avoid a high hit. Browns defensive back Jordan Poyer can vouch for that fact. His hit to the shoulder of Julian Edelman after a late touchdown was flagged as unnecessary on a defenseless receiver. The resulting penalty helped New Englands field position when the Patriots recovered the onside kick.
Had Ward made a similar kind of hit, hed have risked being fined, especially if Gronkowski had ducked or flinched.
Its kind of being caught between a rock and a hard place, he said. Its a decision you have to make, but you have to follow the rules at the same time. Gronks a big dude. Hes not small by any means, so already he has that height. It just makes it difficult. I made a tackle. Unfortunately he got hurt. If he would have got up, there would have been no discussion about this right now.
There used to be an unwritten rule among players never to hit an opponent in the knee or from behind. But those unwritten rules have been trumped by the new ones from the league. Ward predicted last season that the emphasis on eliminating hits to the head would result in more low tackles and knee injuries. He repeated that position on Sunday.
When they set the rules, everyone knew what was going to happen, he said. This can happen if you have those type of situations. Its pretty much inevitable. And they force our hand with this.
Ward could have tried to hit Gronkowski at the waist, but hes giving up seven inches and 65 pounds to the tight end. If he tries to make a high tackle and misses it, he loses his job.
Ive been fined three times, he said. And I dont like playing for free. You can ask anybody in this league, would they like play for free? No. ... [And] I cant risk [suspension]. I wont risk that. Ive got to play within the rules.
And the way the rules are written, there seems to be nothing illegal about a hit like Wards.


Manti Te'o falls off one team's board for 2013 NFL Draft
2013-04-24

"We've kind of taken him off the board," one scout told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday. "He doesn't have e bingo online apuestas futbol nough ability to put up with all that. Why fool with it? Try-hard, smart (Wonderlic of 23) guy. This was the first year he's really gotten himself in shape. Some of his teammates think he's kind of a phony."

Opinions vary wildly on Te'o, like they do for most prospects. We believe he is on the board for most NFL teams despite a relatively common skill set. Other scouts noticed that Te'o's playing speed is faster than his timed speed. He has drawn comparisons to Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk. In a survey of scouts taken by McGinn, Te'o ranked as the second-best 4-3 middle linebacker prospect behind LSU's Kevin Minter. Te'o ranked as the top 3-4 inside linebacker prospect, edging out Minter.

Te'o and Minter both are lucky because many teams with picks toward the end of the first round are looking for inside linebackers this year. The Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens all might be looking for linebackers.
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