When Ben Roethlisberger told his teammates to 'follow me' around midseason, they listened.
So when he challenged Le'Veon Bell to carry the team through the playoffs, you better believe Bell took it to heart.
"Ben knows the things that I do well, how I can help this team, so obviously he can look to me," said Bell. "Just really told me to be the same player I've been all year, the same player I've been all season. He told me not to think about it too much, not to do too much, not to do not enough—just go out there and compete like I usually do. Everything kind of came naturally to me. That's what's been happening so far."
Bell rushed for 167 yards against the Dolphins in the Wild Card Round, setting a Steelers' postseason record for most yards in a single game. He broke his own record against the Chiefs, rushing for 170 yards. His 337 yards in two games set an NFL postseason record for most rushing yards in a player's first two career playoff games.
"It's what I had hoped for and expected," said Roethlisberger. "He is a very special football player. He rises up to the challenge that I presented to him and that we presented to him as an offense and team. It is great to see. But he is only as good as the guys up front are, and they are playing pretty well right now."
Bell and the rest of the offense will face a big challenge this Sunday going against the New England Patriots, a team that beat them, 27-16, in Week 7 of the season. Bell had 21 carries for 81 yards in the game, and 10 receptions for 68 yards.
"They play really well up front," said Bell. "Obviously, they pride themselves on stopping the run. I think it was a little bit of a circumstance of us not getting enough (carries), too. I think last time we played them we weren't as aggressive, as good at running the ball as we are now. So it's going to be an interesting game going against those guys again."
Bell won't mind being a workhorse this game, and getting as many carries that are needed. He said fatigue is not an issue, as he prepares so hard during the week that game day is easier.
"I'm going to do what I normally do," said Bell. "I condition during practice; I make sure I run. The funny part is that the game is a lot easier than practice. I practice a lot harder than I play in the game. Just because in practice I'm taking most of the reps. I think I run a lot more, conditioning-wise, than in the game. I think it makes the game easier for me. When I'm in the game, it's not like I'm feeling tired. I get a lot of rest when the defense is out there, special teams, (after the) first quarter, halftime, all of these little breaks I get. So I think in the game I don't think too much about it, because I practice so hard."
This will be the first go-around for Bell in an AFC Championship Game, and he said he is just following the lead of veteran teammates, with Roethlisberger being right at the top of the list.
"You know the guys who have been around for a long time," said Bell. "Those are the guys—it's not just in the playoffs—those are the guys who have been leading throughout the whole year. There's nothing different about the way Ben's acting in the playoffs, or Deebo (William Gay), or anybody who has a ring. I think they all approach the game the same way from game No. 1 to now. That's what shows what a true champion is like.
"Those guys know what it takes to win. And to have a guy like that in my huddle, Ben, makes things easier for me, so just follow suit."