In the midst of his 167-yard, two-touchdown rushing performance in his NFL playoff debut, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell gave a national audience a long look at one of his unique skills—his uncanny ability to hesitate. It’s the polar opposite of what running backs are instructed to do. Once you see a hole, especially in the NFL, you hit it as quickly as possible. It’s like a portal to another world that’s only open for a few seconds; once you miss it, it’s gone forever.
Bell almost never does this. Once Ben Roethlisberger places the football in his gut, Bell takes a few steps before slowing down to survey the scene in front of him. Sometimes he even comes to a complete stop, a move you’d think would be a death knell for a player looking for space to operate. Yet Bell’s field vision is so pristine that his hesitation allows him to plot his moves before he actually executes them. It’s a method behind his madness, which Bell attributes to his love of chess, a game in which each move is used to set up the next.
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“If I move a [chess] piece—in my head, I’m thinking, ‘I want him to take this piece so I can end up taking his piece so I’m in a better position for my next move later,'” Bell told Bleacher Report. “In football, when I break the line of scrimmage, I see a player in front of me, a defender, and already in my head I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to make him miss.’ So I’m already looking at the next defender like, ‘OK, how can I set this guy up to get him out of position, too?'”
In the article, Bell mentions his 44-yard scamper against Kansas City in Week 5 (above) as an example of his ability to see moves before he makes them. He acts like he’s going to follow his offensive line to the left, and that’s exactly what Chiefs All-Pro safety Eric Berry thinks, too. But though Bell never actually looks at Berry, he has seen him from the start of the play, and he knows that he’s eventually going to hit him with a juke once he lulls Berry into thinking he’s simply hiding behind his line. That’s exactly what Bell does.
Against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Bell’s hesitation moves destroyed the Fins’ defense. Time after time, he received the handoff, stopped, then took off again to the tune of 5.8 yards per carry. He couldn’t be stopped. In the video above, the creator compares Bell’s running style to what happens when your controller briefly disconnects from Madden. It’s hilarious—and spot on. So different is Bell’s rushing technique that the Pittsburgh running back thinks he’s revolutionizing the game, like a certain unanimous NBA MVP playing in the Bay Area.
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“I think I’m changing the game,” Bell said. “In that sense, I’m what Steph Curry is to basketball. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily think Steph Curry is the best basketball player, but he changed the game so he’s going to always go down as being remembered. Now, everyone wants to shoot the three and shoot it from deep.”
Who are we to argue?