For the Raiders to beat the Steelers, they are going to have to do alot of things right. One goal in particular will be to stop the rookie RB Le'Veon Bell, a 6'1" 244 lbs powerful yet agile player. He has nimble feet and athleticism that belies his size and is not a pure bruiser back.
What Bell does show is some excellent patience, impressive lateral movement, and a short-area burst that allows him to find and hit open holes. While he seems to "dance" a little bit in the backfield, he does seem very decisive when a gap does open up. What also shows up is that (at least in most cases), Bell puts moves in the backfield to set up the LBs that are in pursuit. These actions (and the way he attacks the line of scrimmage) has the effect of influencing the 2nd level defenders and allowing the releasing Steeler linemen to get into good position to make blocks. Often, Bell attacks a certain gap to pull in Ravens' LBs; he will then cut hard to the outside leaving the offensive linemen with great leverage position to seal. That football IQ, lateral quickness, and vision are all very impressive.
In most cases, the Offensive Line makes the RB look good. In this case, the RB may be helping out the linemen get their blocks; this would be the reverse case, with the RB making the OL look good.
This explosive quickness and the ability to cutback means that backside defenders will have to be alert and playing until the whistle. In one play, it appears that backside defender Courtney Upshaw gives up on the play and then finds Bell running past him. Also, apparently Ngata was playing hurt and so was moved quite easily in this game. The Raiders' front will have to play stouter against the run and they will need to get some penetration to disrupt Bell; if Bell is allowed to pick his way, he could destroy the Raiders' defense. But, as with all RBs, a body in the backfield could cause him problems. Lamar Houston and Vance Walker have to come up big. And finally, they have to gang tackle this guy.
And on a side note. #66 RG David DeCastro looks like the Beast that everyone said he was prior to the 2012 draft. Pat Sims may have his work cut out for him today.
Here's a look at 6 plays Bell had against the Ravens' D last week.
Run #1 Leaving the Lead
Man blocking and an Iso BOB (Back On 'Backer) block with FB #46 Johnson on LB #53 JAMEEL McClain. The target hole gets squeezed hard by 4 Ravens (Jones, Ngata, Canty, and McClain). Leveon sets and cuts back across to the backside, where Courtney Upshaw and heath Miller are battling; Upshaw takes Miller to the ground, but turns his back to the play, surrendering the gap for Leveon's big cutback.
Run #2 Zone Counter
The initial lineplay indicates zone run to the left, but this appears to be a counter play, with a predetermined cutback to the backside, with a FB lead. The aggressive defensive line flow as well as the WR faking the end-around compromises the backside contain and gives up a big gap for Bell to run into.
Bell does a good job pressing the hole, forcing the interior LBs to commit to the inside gaps which also puts them in harm's way with Steelers' offensive linemen releasing to engage. In particular, it brings #53 McClain inside, giving Steelers RT #77 Gilbert great position to make the block.
Run #3 Wild Spartan
Steelers ran Wildcat with Bell several times (at least 4 times); this is the 2nd. The first time was the play immediately preceding this and on that play, Bell handed the ball off. Predictably, this time he keeps.
WR endaround fake holds the backside while Bell presses the A-gap hole to force #51 Smith to commit to the run-fit. This allows #73 LG Foster to disengage his double-team and block him. Meanwhile, RG #66 Decastro will pull and kick out on Suggs while #46 Johnson leads the play.
Again, Leveon Bell influences the LB-level into compromising positions by his ability to attack a hole and the cut out to another one.
Run #4 The Shoulder Shake
Steelers blow a hole in the DL by getting a powerful Combo Block on #92 Ngata, but LB level fills that gap. There are assignments with FB lead for the BOB (#46 Johnson on #51 Smith) and #66 Decastro releasing to the 2nd level, but the hole is compressed.
So Leveon attacks the hole and gives a shoulder shake to the outside; this move gets #51 to jump to the outside gap, effectively opening up the initial gap. Bell then just attacks that open lane. It's a fantastic move and makes the FB's block look really good.
Run #5 Pressing the Hole Again
Another inside run play where Bell's attack influences the LBs. LG #73 Foster will release to block #53 McClain. Bell will initially press the hole and force McClain to honor the A-gap, which puts him in Foster's way.
At the last moment, Bell explodes laterally and gets to the open gap.
Run #6 Bouncing Twice to Find the Open Gap
Inside zone run starts off with blowing Ngata off the line. Again Bell presses the hole and then breaks to the neighboring gap. When tha tgap is closed, Bell hops out to the next gap, find an opeing and then breaks thru for a big gain.
Again, it's evident how Bell helps his offensive linemen set up their block by pressing and attack the line of scrimmage before breaking to the eventual hole.