PITTSBURGH -- After the Pittsburgh Steelers disposed of the Miami Dolphins 30-12 in the first round of the NFL playoffs Sunday, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was asked which star of the two-pronged offensive attack deserved the game ball.
"Man, L Bell got the record," Pouncey said of Le'Veon Bell, who broke Franco Harris' single-game franchise post-season rushing record with 167 yards.
"Yep. Gotta go with L Bell," Pouncey decided. "I want to say AB because AB jumpstarted it, but the game ball goes to Le'Veon Bell."
Pouncey paused and added. "And Ramon Foster."
Of course, they can't give the game ball to the left guard every week. So Bell it is.
Bell, in turn, would give it to Antonio Brown, who opened up the field Sunday with touchdown catches of 50 and 62 yards on the Steelers' first two drives.
"AB struck them really quick," said Bell. "So in that third series we ran the ball, and I’m just watching them and their safeties were deep the whole time. I’m just thinking 'AB done scared 'em.' So I’m looking at the sideline, just telling them to keep it coming. I'm good. I don’t feel fatigued. The offensive line obviously wants to run the ball, so they kept it coming, kept running and we eventually ran the ball in the end zone.
"That's a lot of credit to the guys on the outside, like AB making plays and getting those guys nervous."
With a 14-3 lead, Bell carried the ball nine times for 79 yards on an all-Le'Veon, all-the-time drive that ended with his 1-yard touchdown run for a 20-3 lead.
So, with 12:42 left in the second quarter, Bell had 99 yards on 13 carries and Brown had 119 yards on three catches.
Easy pickings, right?
"On film, teams are trying to bleed slow," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "They give us the run and not trying to give up the big pass play, so we have been able to utilize Le’Veon so much. Today I think the first two series we came out throwing it and really kind of backed them off, and then that opens up Le’Veon and the guys in the run game."
Was it tempting to continue passing on Miami's depleted secondary?
"It was," Roethlisberger said. "But you gotta do what's best for the team because the running game opened up and worked."
While Brown finished with only two more catches in a 5-for-124 day, Bell finished with his 167 yards on 29 carries to break Harris' old record of 158 set against the Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl following the 1974 season.
Bell needed to keep grinding because the Dolphins, who had cut the lead to 20-6, didn't go away. They drove to the Pittsburgh 8 late in the second half, but on first down Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore was belted from behind by James Harrison and fumbled. It was recovered by Stephon Tuitt to end the half.
The Dolphins entered Steelers territory to open the second half, but another big defensive play ended it, when safety Mike Mitchell blitzed and forced Moore to fumble. L.T. Walton recovered at the Pittsburgh 41 to set up a Chris Boswell field goal.
Bell put the game away a series later with his second touchdown run, this time from eight yards away. The key play of the drive was an offsides during a field-goal attempt, on which the Steelers hard-counted and Tony Lippett jumped over the line to give the Steelers a first down. Bell scored on a third-and-5 play.
"The safeties were deep trying to take away the pass," Roethlisberger explained. "Probably a crazy playcall from that far out, but you give him the ball, sit back and watch."
It reminded Roethlisberger of a story his former backup once told.
"I’ll never forget when Charlie Batch was here, he used to always tell me about how he would hand off and just watch Barry Sanders," Roethlisberger said. "I am not trying to put Le’Veon with Barry Sanders yet, but it is fun to sit and watch and just see what he is going to do because he is incredibly talented."
On the down side in an otherwise bright locker room, Roethlisberger limped away from his press conference with a walking boot on his right ankle. He was hit on his penultimate play of the game by Miami defensive end Cameron Wake after Roethlisberger let go of his second interception of the game.
Wake landed on Roethlisberger's ankle, but Roethlisberger came out to take a knee on the next series and then sprinted off the field. He was examined, booted and said "I'll be out there next week."
The Steelers will travel to Kansas City to play the Chiefs on Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
Will the Steeler lean on Bell or Brown?
Of course, it'll be both.
"We definitely play off each other," said Bell. "We definitely feed off each other. When he scared those guys earlier in the game, they backed up so far. They were just letting us run the ball down the field. They were hoping maybe we'd self-inflict with a penalty to get behind the chains, but we didn't. It was a nice clean drive. The offensive line opened the holes, Ben put us in the right spot and coach put us in the right situation and stayed with the run. That was the biggest thing. We didn't get impatient."