PITTSBURGH (AP) — Le'Veon Bell was 7 years old when Walter Payton died in 1999, but after three straight games with more than 200 yards from scrimmage the Pittsburgh Steelers running back is being compared to the Chicago Bears Hall-of-Famer.
Payton achieved that feat in 1977, and Bell became the second NFL player to total more than 200 scrimmage yards in three straight weeks after tallying 235 at Cincinnati Sunday.
"I've seen highlights of (Payton) and heard a lot about him, that he's arguably the best running back ever," Bell said. "So to be compared to him or even mentioned in the same category as him is just an honor and a blessing and real humbling for me. But it just makes me want to work that much harder."
Bell ran for 185 yards and two touchdowns and added 50 yards receiving with another score in the Steelers' win against the first-place Bengals. It was Bell's fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season, which earned him AFC offensive player of the week honors.
"It's the first one in my career, so it's definitely an honor," Bell said. "Obviously, I couldn't have done it without my teammates, especially the offensive line, the entire offense and the coaching staff."
Bell leads the AFC with 1,231 yards rushing (5.1 yard per carry average) and five touchdowns and is second on the Steelers with 71 catches for 693 yards and three touchdowns. If Bell also surpasses 1,000 yards receiving, he will be just the third NFL back to have 1,000 yards each rushing and receiving besides Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk.
"All I care about is winning," Bell said. "If that comes along with a rushing title, or whatever else, that's all good for me. But the main thing is to make sure we win these last three games and get into the playoffs."
Bell arguably is the Steelers' most complete back since Franco Harris. Barry Foster, Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker were strong runners, while John L. Williams was a solid pass-catcher out of the backfield. Rashard Mendenhall could do a little of both, but none were as complete a back as Bell.
"The things he can do in all three phases of the game, to run, catch the ball and block are some of the most special things I've ever seen a running back do," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "(And) he's grown fast. We feel that we can do anything with him."
Notes: CB Ike Taylor (right forearm, shoulder) missed practice Thursday. . OLB James Harrison (knee) and C Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) were limited, while right OT Marcus Gilbert was a full participant two straight days and should return to the starting lineup. . CB William Gay (quadricep) also returned.
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