Running it or catching it, Bell's a weapon

With 36 catches and 339 receiving yards through not quite half a season, Le'Veon Bell is already approaching the totals he posted in both departments as a rookie in 2013.

But Ben Roethlisberger maintains the Steelers have even more to glean when it comes to their No. 1 running back also being utilized as a weapon in the passing game.

"I don't think we've even used him to his full potential," Roethlisberger insisted this week.

If not, the Steelers at least came close in last Sunday's 30-23 victory over the Houston Texans.

Bell got the offense jump-started late in the second quarter by turning a short pass into a 43-yard gain on what became the Steelers'  first scoring drive (a 44-yard Shaun Suisham field goal that cut the Texans' lead to 13-3).

And Bell found the end zone through the air even later in the second quarter when he hauled in his first career touchdown reception, a 2-yard toss from Roethlisberger that gave the Steelers a 24-13 lead 14 seconds prior to halftime.

On the first catch Bell had initially lined up in the backfield. On the second he was split wide right, unbeknownst to the Texans until it was too late, as it turned out.

Both of those plays contributed to Bell catching a career-high eight passes on the night, for 88 receiving yards (tying his career high).

Bell's 12 carries for 57 yards bloated his yards from scrimmage total against the Texans to 145 and his figure for the season to 938, second in the NFL to DeMarco Murray of the Cowboys (1,072).

Bell caught 45 passes for 399 yards last season, totals he might surpass on Sunday if things go against Indianapolis the way Roethlisberger believes they can.

"When we go no-huddle and I'm calling the plays, I like to get him out (in) empty sets because you can utilize him on mismatches," Roethlisberger explained. "So I think the best is yet to come for him.

"Obviously we have to be smart, because we don't want to run him until the wheels fall off. But you have to have him out there because he can do a little bit of everything."

Bell has averaged 21.9 touches through the first seven games, a total that's less than the number of touches he anticipated handling this season.

"The whole summer I was preparing to get the ball 25-30 times a game, whatever it may be," he said. "My legs feel great. I've been doing a better job this year of understanding when to get down or when to deliver punishment, when to juke and shake and when to lower my head. Last year I was taking direct hits, I'd be real sore after the games. This year I'm perfectly fine."

Bell is likewise happy to accept the ball and do what he can with it whether it has been handed off to him or thrown in his general direction.

"I never really cared about how many rushing yards or receiving yards," he said. "I'm just trying to do whatever it takes for us to win the game."

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