With Bell potentially facing free agency in 2018 and Ben Roethlisberger‘s future status uncertain, Pittsburgh feels the urgency as it sits two wins from a Super Bowl berth.
“We understand we have a great group here,” said Bell ahead of Sunday’s AFC divisional playoff against the Jacksonville Jaguars. “We don’t know if everybody is going to be back or if we’re going to be that special next year. The time that we do have, we have to make it all count. Everybody in this locker room understands that, so we have to go out there and do it.”
Bell has played the year on a $12.1-million franchise tag, and Roethlisberger said Wednesday he’s not thinking about whether Sunday will be his last game in Heinz Field. For the first time, the Steelers expect to have a healthy dose of Roethlisberger, Bell and Antonio Brown — known as the Killer B’s — for the entirety of the playoffs.
Bell and Brown accounted for 3,479 yards and 21 touchdowns of offense in 2017 while Roethlisberger served as a top-five passer with 4,251 yards. The Steelers likely must go through New England to win an AFC title, but they feel they have the offensive firepower and defensive balance to get that done. First objective is conquering Jacksonville, which held Bell to 15 carries for 47 yards and picked off Roethlisberger five times in a 30-9 blowout in Week 5.
Bell, who was vocal about wanting more carries after that game, said the Steelers didn’t “stick to our game plan” and want to be balanced this time around, winning with the running game, playaction and the drop-back pass.
“Whatever it takes to keep those guys off balance,” said Bell, who broke the franchise single-postseason-game rushing record with 170 yards in last year’s divisional round against Kansas City.
The Steelers also won’t underestimate Jacksonville this time. Bell wonders if the Steelers were affected by the Jaguars’ past failures entering that Week 5 matchup.
“Records play parts in that and a team may be coming in thinking a team is easier by their record or a team may be tougher by their record, but that can’t be on our mind,” Bell said. “I think that kind of got us in the first game. The Jacksonville Jaguars are not normally a good team, but those guys have players this year. They’ve been making plays. They’re in the playoffs. We have another opportunity with them. They know what we’re about, we know what they’re about. It’s going to be a good game.”