It was Christmas Eve 2013 when Le'Veon Bell stood in the Steelers media room accepting the team's Joe Greene Great Performance Award, given to the organization's rookie of the year.
At the time, he talked about wanting to improve.
"It means a lot to win this," said Bell on Dec. 24, 2013. "It's a great award. I am thankful for it. Hopefully I will continue to get better."
On Tuesday, Bell stood in the same spot, this time because he accomplished what he set out to do this offseason. He got better. So good, in fact, that he was voted the team's Most Valuable Player by his teammates.
"This award is something as a kid you always dreamt about, being the MVP of your team or one of the players your teammates call upon to be a playmaker and difference maker in a game," said Bell. "I am so proud to be the MVP. But me being MVP is something I can't do on my own. The MVP is an individual award, but it's really a team award in my eyes. I can't do it without my teammates. Guys deserve it as much as I do. I am just proud to be a Pittsburgh Steeler."
In a year when there were multiple candidates to win the award, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receiver Antonio Brown, Bell said he was humbled to have his teammates select him.
"It means everything in the world," said Bell. "It's different if a coach or somebody outside voted for the award. But the fact that your peers and teammates view me as this year's most valuable player, it's so humbling. I am just so glad I am able to be a part of this team."
Bell said he voted for Brown, but also thought Roethlisberger could have won it. He also singled out his offensive line, including the tight ends and fullback, a group he thought could have won MVP as a unit.
"They do so much dirty work for me, making a lot of room for me to run," said Bell. "Those guys have done everything. Me, Ben or AB, we can't do it without those guys. I watch the way those guys work, the way they practice, the way they bond, and how close they are. The way they interact with each other. Their relationship makes us go. They are a young offensive line continually getting better and they make us the players that we are."
Bell has 2,115 yards from scrimmage, a new single-season Steelers record, with one regular season game still to play. He currently has 1,341 yards rushing, which ranks second in the NFL, and is tied for fifth all-time in franchise history.
The talented running back is also a receiving threat, and his 77 receptions for 774 yards are single-season team records for a running back. Bell has also totaled 11 touchdowns (eight rushing, three receiving) on the season.
The top photos of RB Le'Veon Bell who was voted as the Steelers'2014 MVP by his teammates.
"It's very well deserved," said Roethlisberger of Bell winning the MVP. "The things that he did this year in more than just the running game, the passing game, catching the ball, blocking – when you think of an MVP, he is a guy that should come to mind. So I think it was very well deserved."
Bell is the seventh running back in Steelers history to receive the honor, the first since Willie Parker won it in 2006. Among the others who won it before him were Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis.
"To join that club is an honor, a blessing," said Bell. "It's humbling to be in the same group with those guys. It motivates me to be a better player, teammate and person to stay on the same level with those guys and keep my productivity up and continue to be a better player each and every game."
His name has also been associated with Walter Payton after Bell joined him as one of only two players in the NFL to record 200 yards from scrimmage in three straight games. After that the offensive line started referring to him as 'Walter, Jr.'
"When your offensive linemen believe in you like that, it's going to make your job that much easier because you know those guys are going to put it all on the line for you," said Bell. "That is what you need. Every team in the NFL doesn't have an offensive line like that."
Bell understands the Bengals might come in to Heinz Field on Sunday night and try to shut down the run, but the only thing that concerns him is getting a win and becoming AFC North champions.
"I am ready to do whatever it's going to take for us to win the game," said Bell. "Teams are going to try and come in and stop the run, we understand that. We aren't going to force something that isn't there. We are going to stay balanced and run our offense.
"I am not a player who needs 25 touches or 150 yards to be happy. I will be happy with a win."