In a few short weeks, we will be turning the page on our calendars to “2017.” On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers flipped their calendars back 30 years, executing a rushing attack straight out of the 1970’s as they took down the Buffalo Bills, 27-20.
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The snowy conditions did nothing to slow down Le’Veon Bell, put together one of the best performances in Steelers history on Sunday. The star running back carried the ball 38 times for a franchise-record 236 yards and three touchdowns, all career highs. Bell is peaking at the right time for the Steelers, posting 480 all-purpose yards in two games in December.
Bell also topped 1,000 yards for the season, becoming the fifth back to do so in 2016.
Who’s the Real MVP?
At the midseason mark, Ben Roethlisberger was considered a legitimate MVP candidate. After yesterday’s game, the more favorable candidate might be his backfield mate, Bell. Big Ben struggled in the wintery conditions against the Bills, throwing three head-scratching interceptions. He is still in the midst of one of his best seasons, but Bell’s eruption (1,616 all-purpose yards in 10 games) has landed him smack-dab in the middle of a wide-open MVP race. His biggest competition? Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot and Arizona Caridnals running back David Johnson.
You, me and Dupree (All had sacks yesterday)
Perhaps the most enlightening aspect of yesterday’s game was the arrival of a playoff-ready defense. 2015 first-round pick Bud Dupree led the mob that terrorized Tyrod Taylor all game on Sunday, recording two of the team’s five sacks. Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt and rookie Sean Davis also got in on the sack-tion.
Dec 11, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers safety Sean Davis (28) dives to try and make a tackle on Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) during the first half at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
The rookie duo patrolling the secondary continues to produce: Davis recorded 1.5 sacks and Artie Burns nabbed his third interception of the season. After some early-season struggles, the two young playmakers have begun to deliver on their potential.
Other News and Notes
Before the game, reports surfaced of a possible DeflateGate sequel involving the Steelers. Luckily, the NFL quickly shot down the rumors before things got out of hand.
The Steelers now rank 11th in total defense. A fifth ranked rush defense is the strength of a unit that is giving up just 19.7 PPG, good for ninth in the NFL.
After last week’s breakout game against the Giants, LaDarius Green returned to human form. He caught just two passes on six targets for 25 yards. He did rank second in the game in targets, indicating his role in the offense is continuing to grow.
Sunday’s win was the fourth in a row for the Steelers (8-5), who continue to battle the Baltimore Ravens (7-5) for the AFC North lead. The Ravens will take on the New England Patriots tonight and can regain the division lead with a win.