RB Bell will pro­vide depth in K. C. back­field

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Pro Football -

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The only mem­ber of the Kansas City Chiefs that was avail­able and will­ing to dis­cuss Le’Veon Bell, ar­guably the big­gest free- agent sign­ing since the off­sea­son, hap­pened to be the de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor who won’t have any­thing to do with him.

Steve Spag­n­uolo is happy for that, too. Spag­n­uolo al­ready had plenty of headaches try­ing to stop Bell when the two- time All- Pro run­ning back was with the Steelers. The long­time de­fen­sive whiz had five op­por­tu­ni­ties to shut down Bell, who an­nounced Wed­nes­day that he was sign­ing with the Chiefs, and each time Spag­n­uolo found him­self grasp­ing at straws.

“Look, it’s great al­ways to ac­cu­mu­late good foot­ball play­ers,” Spag­n­uolo said. “I haven’t seen him or gone against him in a long time. But he was so chal­leng­ing to stop in that dual play the Steelers ran where he’d just sit back there and pick and weave. No mat­ter what you did, it felt like you couldn’t stop him for six or seven yards.”

The Chiefs fol­low a strict sched­ule for mak­ing coaches and play­ers avail­able to re­porters, and coach Andy Reid, gen­eral man­ager Brett Veach and Bell weren’t avail­able Fri­day. Bell still could be com­plet­ing phys­i­cals and pa­per­work, and he must pass a six- day COVID- 19 pro­to­col or get an ex­emp­tion be­fore he’s al­lowed in the build­ing, so not even some of the folks in the Chiefs or­ga­ni­za­tion were quite sure when he would join the team.

That’s why Chiefs of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Eric Bie­niemy was quick to say: “I know there’s been some dis­cus­sion about a par­tic­u­lar player. I’m go­ing to de­fer all those ques­tions to Coach Reid and Brett Veach.”

“Right now, our fo­cus is on the Buf­falo

Bills,” Bie­niemy said. “We need to make sure we get this chip off our shoul­der.”

Bell won’t be able to help them by Mon­day night, of course. But he should pro­vide a big lift for a strug­gling run game the rest of the sea­son, es­pe­cially as the Chiefs ( 4- 1) chase a first- round play­off bye in the de­fense of their Su­per Bowl ti­tle.

Bell be­came a bona fide star with the Steelers, when he ran for at least 1,200 yards and caught 75 passes in three dif­fer­ent sea­sons. But things went hay­wire af­ter he skipped the 2018 sea­son amid a con­tract dis­pute. Bell signed a four- year, $ 52.5 mil­lion deal with $ 35 mil­lion guar­an­teed with the New York Jets, but he never quite meshed with coach Adam Gase, and he was re­leased this week af­ter they failed to find any suit­able trade part­ners.

Bell re­port­edly was con­sid­er­ing three teams be­fore set­tling on Kansas City, where he will back up Clyde Ed­wards-He­laire.

Ed­wards- He­laire, a rookie out of LSU who was the Chiefs’ first- round pick in this year’s draft, raised eye­brows by run­ning for 138 yards with touch­downs on the ground and through the air in his de­but against Hous­ton. But Ed­wards- He­laire had just 38 yards rush­ing the fol­low­ing week, 64 yards rush­ing each of the next two and 40 yards rush­ing last Sun­day against the Raiders — when the Chiefs lost, 40- 32, to end their fran­chise- record 13- game win­ning streak.

“We drafted Clyde for a rea­son. Clyde is do­ing a heck of a job,” Bie­niemy said. “The rest of that” — re­fer­ring again to Bell — “I’m go­ing to let Coach Reid ad­dress that. He’s the head coach for a rea­son and Brett

Veach is the gen­eral man­ager for a rea­son. Once they ad­dress that, I’ll make sure I jump in. But Clyde is do­ing a heck of a job.”

He also can’t do it alone, and that’s an­other rea­son the Chiefs signed Bell. They thought they would have Damien Wil­liams to pro­vide a 1- 2 punch, but he opted out due to COVID- 19. That left only Dar­rel Wil­liams, who has car­ried 11 times for 35 yards, and Dar­win Thomp­son, who has six car­ries for 32 yards, to give Ed­wards-He­laire a break in the back­field.

Ed­wards- He­laire has run 81 times for 344 yards. The rest of the team, which in­cludes quar­ter­back Pa­trick Ma­homes and the wide re­ceivers the Chiefs use on jet sweeps, have com­bined for just 51 car­ries and 213 yards.

So while Bie­niemy might be un­will­ing to say it, the Chiefs de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor is: “I’m sure our of­fen­sive guys will be glad to have him,” Spag­n­uolo said.

Mike Stob/ Getty Im­ages

Le’Veon Bell will try to re­vive his ca­reer while go­ing af­ter a Su­per Bowl.

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