PITTSBURGH – (Wire Service Report) – Le’Veon Bell came back for Pittsburgh. Jamaal Charles came back for Kansas City. Maybe this should have been called the Return Game for two of the NFL’s best running backs. However, there weren’t many happy returns for the Chiefs, who, despite welcoming back Charles for the first time since he tore an ACL on Oct. 11, 2015, were 43-14 losers to the Steelers on Sunday night.
Charles had one carry for 6 yards in the first quarter, then wasn’t seen again until Knile Davis’ possible concussion forced him back into the game after the Steelers took a 36-0 lead. A rainy night with the opponent up by five scores wasn’t conducive for a player returning from a serious knee injury, and Charles finished with two carries for 7 yards.
“He’s a unique player with a tremendous skill set,” Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith said. “Obviously, to get him back in the mix and get him worked in more and more, it will only help us.”
The Chiefs wanted to ease him back, but not this way.
“Right from the get-go, we weren’t playing the way we normally do,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid said.
But Bell did. Challenged by coach Mike Tomlin during practice to become even more multidimensional than he was previously, Bell ran 18 times for 144 yards — with a long of 44 yards — and also had five catches for 34 yards in his first game in one year and one day.
“Le’Veon is one of the best in the world at what he does,” Tomlin said. “His presence is always significant, because he does so many things well. We challenged him intellectually this week, and he delivered.”
Bell was much more of a factor for the Steelers than Charles was for the Chiefs — although it was Ben Roethlisberger’s four first-half touchdown passes that were the difference for Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger ended with five TD passes, the fifth such game of his career. Bell — No. 2 in the NFL in rushing in 2014 — tore a medial collateral ligament on Oct. 1, 2015, and was lost for the rest of the season, then was suspended for the first three games of this season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
“Ben made the right plays to get me in the open field,” Bell said. “I felt great. … I didn’t feel rusty at all. I couldn’t wait to get back out there. … I did some blocking, and once I started to get carries, it felt normal.”
Bell certainly looked like the running back who ran for more than 1,300 yards in 2014. However, he looked different, too — sometimes lining up outside, as a wide receiver, so DeAngelo Williams could get some carries, too, after running for 258 yards in the first three weeks.
“You saw what all we could do with him,” Roethlisberger said of Bell. “It’s a compliment to him. … We asked him to do a lot. Not just be a running back and run the ball, but we put him in motion, we put him at wide receiver, we threw screens to him. We did a lot. And that’s the confidence and the faith we have in him.”