Healthy Bell hopes to build on strong finish

PITTSBURGH -- In his first eight games last season, Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell rushed for 455 yards and averaged 3.2 yards per carry. In his final five games, Bell rushed for 405 yards and averaged 4.0 yards per carry.

Bell, when reflecting on his first NFL season, attributed the improvement to more than just the natural rookie progression.

"I started getting more healthy because my foot was bothering me a lot last year," Bell said after the Steelers' final voluntary offseason practice. "The more healthy I got, the more reps I got, the slower the game became to me and the more confidence I got in myself. Hopefully I just come in (to this season) healthy and pick up where I left off last year."

Bell, who missed the Steelers' first three games in 2013 because of a mid-foot sprain, said the injury is no longer an issue, and it will be interesting to see how heavily the Steelers lean on the 6-1, 244-pounder this season.

The Steelers' backfield has gotten a makeover since the end of last season with the team signing free agent LeGarrette Blount and using a third-round draft pick on Dri Archer.

The 6-feet, 250-pound Blount is a bruiser who was the New England Patriots' best running back by the end of last season. The 5-8, 173-pound Archer is a blur who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.26 seconds at the NFL scouting combine -- and has been every bit as fast as advertised during the Steelers' offseason practices.

Bell, who won the Joe Greene Performance Award as the Steelers' top rookie last season, said the three running backs complement one another.

"There's a lot of different running styles in the backfield," the 2013 second-round pick said. "Dri, obviously one of the fastest guys in the NFL today. LeGarrette's one of the bigger running backs, a more physical guy and me, I guess I'm kind of in the middle. I'm not the fastest or the strongest, but I'm kind of balanced."

How the Steelers use the three backs as they try to improve a rushing attack that ranked 27th in the NFL last season (86.4 yards per game) remains to be seen.

But both Bell and Blount said they can play at the same time while Archer is projected to get snaps at running back and wide receiver this season.

"Because of my skill set I can be a receiver and (Blount) can be at the running back position," Bell said. "There's definitely times we could both be out there."

When asked if he could see any scenarios in which all three running backs are on the field at the same time, Bell smiled.

"I don't think they're going to do that," Bell said. "They don't like us that much. There's a lot of different packages, so we're going to see what we can do."