Running back Le’Veon Bell thinks he was the difference in the AFC Championship Game.
The Steelers back left the team’s 36-17 loss to the Patriots after running six times for 20 yards because of a groin injury, a development that forced Pittsburgh to play without one of its biggest weapons in their biggest game of the year. Bell said on ESPN that he believes that the score would have been very different had he been healthy for the contest.
“I think we beat them,” Bell said. “When I was out there, I wasn’t feeling well at all. The fact I was out there [early in the game], their game plan was so different just because of the fact I was out there. If I go out there healthy and we go out there and do what we do, the way we’ve been doing it the whole season, especially in the playoffs, running the ball, running play-action, leaving [Antonio Brown] one-on-one … I think the outcome would have been different. We’ll get back to that next year.”
Bell’s presence wouldn’t have done anything to help the Steelers defense, which gave up 431 yards on the way to the loss and was particularly ineffective against the Tom Brady-led passing attack. Bell’s presence would have certainly changed the way things played out when the Steelers had the ball, but a different ending is anything but certain when you can’t keep your opponent off the scoreboard.