Kendrell Bell feeling spunky again

<b>PITTSBURGH –</b> Kendrell Bell believes that defense is about momentum and the best way to gain momentum is to hit somebody. Hard. <br><br> As a rookie in 2001, Bell routinely changed momentum. He did it again last Sunday when his savage, head-high tackle of James Jackson on second-and-goal from the Cleveland one-yard line ignited the Steelers and sent them on their way to an improbable 13-6 win.

The win over the 4-7 Browns wasn't as improbable as the way the Steelers did it. One of the keys was Bell, whose explosive form hasn't shown up as often as it did his rookie season.

"My rookie year, I had so much energy. I was the new kid on the block," Bell said. "Now, being kind of familiar, it's harder because everybody tries to scheme against you and do different things.

"I think my focus helped me out a lot more Sunday. I tried to make sure I read the guards and made contact with them before the back got out of the backfield. That helped me out. And also making sure I had my keys in pass coverage. That was mainly it. That and I made decisive decisions."

Bell couldn't have made a more decisive decision than to leave his feet and sail over the mass of humanity at the goal line. He met a similarly airborne Jackson over the pile and drove him back to the ground by the head.

Is that what he meant by a decisive decision?

"Yeah it was," Bell said. "Actually it's hard to do that because a lot of times I get caught up in traffic. Being that they were running the play away from me, a lot of times a guard or something will slip out. I've got to credit the D-line for not letting that happen."

Bell tackled Jackson for no gain on the next play, too. Then on fourth down, the Browns resorted to trickery and Chad Scott tackled Dennis Northcutt short of the goal line on a reverse.

"When you're out there on the field you look for one of your teammates to do something like make a big hit," Bell said. "The mood of the game kind of swung our way. It inspires a player to try to make a play like that. It actually got me hyped up. The next play me and James (Farrior) made the tackle on Jackson. And then on the reverse, Chad made a decisive decision and got him right before he got in the end zone."

Love those decisive decisions. Bell made three-and-a-half of them, according to Sunday's stat sheet. Those were his tackles for loss, or no gain, against the Browns. He also had 11 total tackles and forced his first fumble of the season. Both the tackles for loss and total tackles were his second-high totals of the season. His previous bests were 4.5 tackles for loss and 12 total tackles against Cleveland the first time the teams played.

Bell believes he can keep that energy alive for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, against whom he had a season-high two sacks earlier this season.

"Hopefully it will," he said. "Being this late in the season, a lot of guys are kind of worn down. I felt like I was worn down the week before the Seattle game. It's all about taking care of your body, so I did a good thing last week. I took care of my body, got in the hot tub, the cold tub. So I believe if we take care of our bumps and bruises and play hard and be decisive, we'll be alright."

Against the Bengals, Bell will renew acquaintances with running back Rudi Johnson, who once gained 152 yards against a Georgia defense that included future NFL players Bell, Richard Seymour, Charles Grant, Johnathan Sullivan, Jermaine Phillips, Boss Bailey and Will Witherspoon.

"He did us like he did everybody else," Bell said of Johnson, the 2000 SEC Player of the Year. "When you're in college, you're wide open. We didn't know how to tackle or anything. Guys would come in and try to knock him out. Jermaine Phillips, who's at Tampa Bay now, came down and put a lick on him. I think he blacked out because after he hit him he ran five yards and just fell face first by himself. Rudi was still running."

Johnson, a 5-foot-10, 220-pounder, was drafted in the fourth round the year Bell was taken in the second, but Johnson hadn't met with success until this season. As a fill-in for Corey Dillon, Johnson has 672 yards on 154 carries (4.4 avg.). Dillon returned last week and went over 100 yards for the first time this season. He had 108 yards on 18 carries and Johnson added 65 on 16 carries.

"Johnson's a very strong runner," Bell said. "I have to say he's like Corey Dillon, but not as fast as Corey Dillon. But he's very strong. I had a chance to tackle Rudi one time and it was like putting an O-lineman down. The thing with him, I'm going to tackle him high. He has big legs and we watch film and everybody who comes and tries to knock him off just bounces right off him. You've got to act like he's Corey. That's about it."

Hit him high. Hit him hard. Let momentum do the rest.

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