By Christina Rivers

The Pittsburgh Steelers have driven themselves solidly back into the NFL playoffs in 2014, much of their success coming from second-year running back Le’Veon Bell’s outstanding performance. It came as little surprise that his teammates voted to make him their 2014 Most Valuable Player. Bell has established his position with the team as top rusher and his 2,115 yards from scrimmage set a new single-season franchise record.

This is the first year that Bell has received the award, but joins four other rushers on the list (since 1969); Willie Parker (2006), Jerome Bettis (2000, 1997 and ’96), Barry Foster (1992) and Franco Harris (1972). Bell has added a depth to the offense the Steelers have been looking for, adding 77 receptions for 774 yards (also a single-season franchise record for running backs) and 11 total touchdowns (eight rushing, three receiving). Bell’s rushing total of 1,341 yards on the season places him with some of the NFL elite. Only Marshall Faulk, Steven Jackson and Brian Westbrook also recorded at least 1,300 rushing yards and 750 receiving yards in the same season. Bell has rushed for 1,341 yards through week 16 and is expected to be utilized heavily in week 17 and the playoffs.

Bell shook off early-season troubles to get himself on track just one year after being honored with the Joe Green Great Performance Award that is given annually to the Steelers’ top rookie. Bell’s three-straight games earlier in the season of at least 200 yards from scrimmage placed him with Walter Payton (1977) as just the second player in league history to accomplish such a feat.

In November, Bell took on the lead responsibility for carrying the ball for Pittsburgh. Many were concerned that with Dri Archer and Josh Harris untested for the most part, Bell would struggle under the pressure and physical attack.

Bell said, “I’m still going to go out there and play my heart out like I usually do…I’ve been training (the) whole offseason for [this], if I don’t have to come out of the game, so I’ll still be energized, so I can still finish the fourth quarter, I don’t feel fatigued or tired.”

Bell was praised for his work ethic by both head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. “We felt from Day 1 that (Bell) was that type of back. You kinda had a pretty good vision of what he was capable of doing. It’s a long season, and we did things the way we did them for a reason. We’re coming down the stretch now. We need our best players playing their best. I think it’s a great opportunity for him and for us.”

Bell took the opportunity and literally ran with it. Through it all, Bell has remained humble and a true teammate. It isn’t often that a guy so new to a franchise makes as big an impact as Bell has for the Steelers, on and off the field. The Steelers were hoping that they had found young players to move into the organization who would prove to not only understand the system, but be able to take over leadership roles as veterans depart.

Pittsburgh found the right guy and it feels only right that Bell be shown the appreciation of his teammates by honoring him as the team’s most valuable player. There is talk that Bell could earn himself a league MVP as well in 2014.

For more Steelers news and updates, visit Steelers Central.

Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a reporter and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied exercise physiology and sports psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. Her work can be found on
Examiner.com.