Bell: 'It was the perfect match'

Legends Series: Kendrell Bell
Linebacker
2001-04

It didn’t take Kendrell Bell long to make an impact on the Steelers, coming in as the team’s second-round draft pick in 2001 and becoming a starter right off the bat. Bell finished his rookie year in style, winning the Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Bell’s time with the Steelers wasn’t long, but the impact it left on him was lasting. He went on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs for three seasons, but nothing replaced that time with the Steelers.

“That’s what I learned after I left here and went to another team. I thought about it. The culture was different on the other team. I can remember being in Pittsburgh and everybody hung out together. Jerome (Bettis), Hines (Ward), offense, defense, Alan Fanaca, Joey (Porter), we all hung out together. There wasn’t anybody with a big head or acting like they were better than other players. The camaraderie was just so good. I can’t really explain it.

“I talked to Lethon Flowers and he was talking about how you knew the guys who loved the game and the guys who didn’t. Or in his words, who was just playing for a check. We really enjoyed, I really enjoyed the time here experiencing that. Those are some of the best memories I have.”

Bell also weighed in on a variety of other topics in this exclusive interview:

What was the best memory from your playing career?
“I can’t really pinpoint just one exact moment but the guys, the camaraderie we had, and the personalities on the team day in and day out that I enjoyed the most. There were great memories, but I can’t pinpoint one moment.”

Is that what you loved about here, players played for the love of the game?
“I can’t name one person who did not. But I don’t think the culture here allowed for it anyway. If a guy came in and he was a narcissistic person, the culture kind of pushed a person like that out. That’s what I loved. I could be myself, most of the guys could be themselves. You didn’t have to act like something. It’s peaceful. It was so peaceful here. When I left college, it was kind of like a college atmosphere. Because we went out together, we hung out together at guy’s house. That’s what it was.”

You played on a defense that loved to hit. Was it a perfect match for you and this defense?
“It was the perfect match. It allowed me to come out and just play. That’s one thing I really enjoyed about playing in Pittsburgh. You could come out and play as a player. I ended up learning that going to another team. At the other team I was like a robot. Didn’t allow for me to perform to my potential. Pittsburgh allowed that. Just to be able to get to the quarterback, not sitting back and playing catch up.

“The guys like Lethon, Earl Holmes, older guys, those guys kind of helped me along. They say that when a young guy comes into the NFL, the older veterans don’t help them. It was like a family atmosphere, college atmosphere, where guys try to help you out. You can get out there and play and make plays and it was just good. I can’t really organize these words or express how much I feel in my heart about that.”

Was winning the one common thread that you guys all had, that passion, that desire to win, that you’d do anything for each other to do it?
“Definitely. There were a lot of humble guys on the team. That’s what made the mixture of people come together so well. Everyone was humble, we wanted to win and we were willing to sacrifice whatever it was to win and to continue to play together.”

Is that one of those things you don’t realize how good it is until it’s not there?
“It’s the old cliché, you don’t know how good it is until it’s gone. It was an exciting time in my life, the biggest time in my life. I enjoyed it. I didn’t take it for granted. I would think about it all the time try to make sure I got it in. Really enjoy these moments. That’s what a lot of guys on the team did. It was the culture, almost a coincidence, just the team itself and organization is this culture and guys are able to perform and enjoy playing.”

What did it mean to you to play for the Steelers?
“It makes me feel good that I accomplished something and I was with a team that invested in people and players, gave people opportunities, a lot of opportunities. And when I look at my kids, and I tell them, I played for the Steelers, I was okay, and see how they light up. My oldest son, he wants to be a commentator, so he reads a lot about the history and he’ll say, that was a good team dad, a really good team. To hear those things warms you up inside. It feels awesome. It’s the players who I played with, just the camaraderie was so important for success.”

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