According to ESPN.com's Scott Brown
, something happened on the way to Le'Veon Bell
making a run at an NFL rushing title: Opposing teams decided that they were not going to let the second-year Steelers running back beat them.
Bell has rushed for just 110 yards on 40 carries in the Steelers' last two games, and you can bet Bengals coach Marvin Lewis will pay close attention to the film from those games since Bell rushed for 185 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 42-21 win three weeks ago in Cincinnati.
That victory launched a three-game winning streak that has propelled Pittsburgh into the playoffs. And the Steelers can finish what they started in Cincinnati Sunday night.
The Bengals visit Heinz Field for a game with no less than an AFC North title and a home game in the playoffs on the line.
The Steelers have to figure that Lewis, who rose through the NFL ranks as a defensive coach, will take a similar approach as the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs and crowd the line of scrimmage to contain Bell.
Bell's longest run in the last two games is just 13 yards. Against the Bengals the 6-1, 225-pounder had five runs that covered at least 13 yards, including two that went for touchdowns.
Bell is second in the NFL with 1,341 rushing yards, but he trails Dallas running back DeMarco Murray by a little more than 400 yards. The last two games cost Bell any chance of reeling in Murray.
The good news for the Steelers is Bell doesn't seem to care much about personal statistics as he did anything but sulk after the Chiefs held him to 63 yards on 20 carries.
"They were loading the box but I was happy we were able to pass the ball and we ran the ball efficiently when we needed to," Bell said.
Bell added the decision to focus on him makes the passing attack even more dangerous.
"Pick your poison,” he said.
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper suggested, with Ben Roethlisberger second in the NFL in passing yards and Antonio Brown leading the league in receptions and receiving yards, that’s a pretty apt description of what defenses are faced with when lining up against the Steelers this season.
That versatility has helped them to the top of the league’s offensive rankings and made life easier for fantasy owners relying on the primary weapons for consistent production. ...
As for one of the team's still-developing weapons. ... Pro Football Focus' Mike Clay notes that Martavis Bryant caught one pass for 44 yards on Sunday, but he played more snaps than Markus Wheaton for just the second time this season.
Emerging as Pittsburgh's No. 2 wide receiver Brown, Bryant has 12 end zone targets since making his debut in Week 7. According to Clay, that's fifth-most in the league.
Clay added: "Bryant isn't yet an every-down player and will have his hands full with the Bengals' secondary this week, but his usage near the goal line makes him a boom-or-bust WR3 option."