Le'Veon Bell had a December to remember.
He was voted the Steelers' MVP by his teammates.
He was selected to his second Pro Bowl in a vote by players, coaches and fans.
And he was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Buffalo Bills in Week 14 (Dec. 11).
So it should come as no surprise that Bell was named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Month for December/January, despite only playing in four of the five possible games.
Bell rushed for an NFL leading 569 yards during the span on 100 carries, a 5.2-yard average, and rushed for four touchdowns. He had 18 receptions for 179 yards, a 9.9-yard average, and one touchdown reception. Bell had 748 total yards from scrimmage, which also led the NFL, averaging 5.8 yards every time he touched the ball and a league-leading 187.0 yards from scrimmage per game.
Bell rushed for a Steelers' single-game record 236 yards on a career-high 38 carries in the 27-20 win over the Bills. Bell also had the hat trick, scoring three touchdowns for the first time in his career, and tying a team record with the three rushing scores. Bell added four receptions for 62 yards, for a total of 298 yards from scrimmage, ranking second in team history in yards from scrimmage in a single game. Bell single-handedly outgained the Bills with his 298 yards from scrimmage, compared to the Bills 275 yards of total offense.
Bell had at least 100 yards from scrimmage in every game in December, and has eclipsed that mark in seven consecutive games and in 11 of the 12 games he has played in this season. Bell lead the NFL in yards per scrimmage per game, averaging 157.0, while compiling 1,884 yards from scrimmage (1,268 yards rushing/616 yards receiving).
"Usually when we get to the end of the year, the weather starts to kind of affect games a little bit," said Bell. "Over the course of the year the offensive line continually got better, we got more confident in the run and every play that was called we just felt like it could work. At the end of the year we came in with a game plan of 'We want to run the ball, slow the clock.'"
December has traditionally been a strong month for Bell, who has totaled 1,686 yards from scrimmage in the month of December since entering the NFL in 2013, a total that ranks second to LeSean McCoy (1,954) during that span. He had also rushed for 1,216 yards in the month of December since 2013, ranking third in the NFL in that time span. Impressive numbers on their own, but even more so when you consider he didn't play a snap in December, 2015, after being placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.
Bell finished the 2016 regular season with 261 carries for 1,268 yards, a 4.9-yard average, and seven touchdowns. He also had 75 receptions for 616 yards and two touchdowns.
"We always knew he had an awesome talent for running the ball, but I think what is most impressive is his blocking and catching the ball out of the backfield," said Ben Roethlisberger. "He is an every down back and we can use him for every situation. I think that is what is most impressive."
Bell became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 3,000 rushing yards and 1,500 receiving yards in his career, doing so in just 38 games. He reached 4,000 yards rushing in his 47th career game, the second fewest games to do so in Steelers' history (Jerome Bettis, 44). Bell also hit the 5,000 yards from scrimmage mark in just 42 career games, setting a team record for fewest games to reach the milestone.
Bell is preparing this week for his first-ever postseason game, having missed out on playing due to injuries the last two years. He is excited for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field, but is also treating it the same as he treats every game.
"I'm obviously real anxious and excited," said Bell. "It's going to be good to get out there with my teammates, go to battle with those guys and see if we can make a run in these playoffs.
"I'm going to go out there and play football. I don't want to go into a game thinking, 'Oh, it's my first playoff game.' I want to go out there and play football, have fun, do what I do. All the rest of it just kind of comes naturally. I don't want to put too much thought into it."