By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Bill Belichick acknowledged that the Pittsburgh Steelers present problems at all of their skill positions. But when asked about their running backs, he could hardly contain himself.
A reporter brought up running back Le’Veon Bell and an awestruck Belichick snapped “Oh my God,” before the reporter could even finish his question. You can tell that Belichick respects the ability of Bell as much as any player in the league.
“Tremendous player,” said Belichick. “Great hands, can catch the ball, very quick, makes people miss, strong, breaks tackles, excellent balance, tough, doesn’t run out of bounds, fights for extra yardage … great player.”
One of the most dynamic overall players in the league, Bell will be a significant threat every time he touches the ball, both on the ground and through the air. Any time a player is a constant threat to do both this:
And this …
… You know you will have your hands full. And you know that Belichick has spent hours digesting these kinds of plays on film.
Continuing his answer, Belichick also referenced DeAngelo Williams, who has filled in nicely when Bell has been injured or suspended. With Landry Jones under center, the Steelers could lean heavily on both backs to carry the load down the field. Belichick offered high praise for Williams before circling back to Bell.
“DeAngelo Williams led the league in rushing in the two weeks he played earlier in the year when he had a lot of carries,” said Belichick. “He’s had a tremendous career – really one of the all-time great careers. Statistically, he’s been tremendous. … It doesn’t matter who’s in there, they’re a problem, but Bell is as good as anybody we’ll play.”
Of course, the Steelers also have dynamic receiving threats in Antonio Brown and emerging rookie Sammie Coates, who can always kill you with big plays down the field. But it sounds as if Belichick is preparing the Patriots to key in on limiting the Steelers’ running backs, primarily Bell, and taking their chances with forcing Jones to sling the ball to his receivers.
Belichick spoke at length about the myriad of threats that Brown and the Steelers passing game poses to the Patriots, but it sounds as if Belichick is prepping the Patriots to do all they can to slow down Bell and see what happens with everyone else.
You can tell how badly Belichick wants to shut down an opposing player based on how much respect he showers down upon them. Despite the presence of Brown on the field, don’t be surprised if the Patriots’ defensive gameplan centers around stopping Bell.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.