PITTSBURGH -- Le'Veon Bell is quietly building a strong case for MVP consideration.
The Pittsburgh Steelers running back ranks among the NFL's top three in rushing yards (599), yards from scrimmage (938) and first down (44).
And quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Bell, who has played in just 20 NFL games, is only going to get better.
"I don't even think we've used him to the full potential," Roethlisberger said. "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 in mismatches. I still think the best is yet to come from him."
One of Bell's best attributes is his versatility and he is as comfortable catching the ball after lining up as a wideout as he out of the backfield. Bell caught eight passes for 88 yards in the Steelers' 30-23 win over the Houston Texans last Monday night, and his 43-yard catch-and-run served as the catalyst in a 24-point explosion late in the second quarter.
Bell is not even halfway through his second NFL season but he has already set a Steelers record for most yards from scrimmage (2,197 yards) after two seasons. The 2013 second-round pick needs just 295 yards to pass Franco Harris for the most rushing yards by a Steelers player in his first two seasons.
Bell is also close to another milestone.
If the 6-1, 225-pounder gain 50 yards from scrimmage Sunday against the visiting Indianapolis Colts he will pass Barry Foster and Jerome Bettis for the most yards from scrimmage by a Steelers player in the first eight games of a season since 1970, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Bell's emergence has led to fewer carries for LeGarrette Blount, who was signed in March to complement Bell, but it doesn't appear that the Steelers are overworking him.
Bell is averaging just under 22 touches per game and the Michigan State product said he has learned this season to avoid hard hits, something that should also allow him to thrive while weathering the grind of an NFL season.
"We don't want to run him until the wheels fall off but you've got to have him out there because he can do a little bit of everything," Roethlisberger said, "and that's why I think he's one of the best all-around backs in the game."