PITTSBURGH -- A groin injury in last season's AFC Championship Game crushed Le'Veon Bell's title dreams. Now the Pittsburgh Steelers running back gets a rematch with the team that won that day, the New England Patriots.
"I just felt like I missed a opportunity to get to a Super Bowl," Bell said Wednesday. "When this year came around, we saw the schedules and everything, I knew had another opportunity if I was being healthy and playing the Pats again. It's good. The opportunity is here."
"It was a terrible feeling having to watch my guys go to work," Bell said. "... Watching my guys in the playoffs and not being able to go, it sucked for me."
Bell was on a tear before that game. He set single-game franchise rushing records for the regular season (236 yards) and playoffs (170), and averaged 157 yards from scrimmage during the regular season.
Sunday's game at Heinz Field will likely decide home-field advantage in the AFC playoff picture -- and now the Steelers face the Patriots with a fully stocked roster. Bell leads the league in rushing (1,105 yards) and Antonio Brown is the NFL's leading receiver (1,509 yards on 99 catches). Pittsburgh is the league's only team with a 3,000-yard passer (Ben Roethlisberger, 3,744), 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver.
But the Patriots have Tom Brady, who has 22 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last seven games against Pittsburgh.
"This is the game everyone has been waiting to see," Bell said. "It's the No. 1 and 2 teams in the AFC going at it head-to-head. This is obviously a game that a lot of people, even before the season started, probably circled on their calendars. I'll definitely embrace the game. The Patriots are the team that's always in the hunt for the Super Bowl."
"I think it's gonna be more so of whoever executes better," he added. "They got players who can make plays. We have players who can make plays. It depends on who makes the plays and when they make them.
"I want to make sure I'm the guy always making a play when the opportunity presents itself."