BOSTON (CBS) -- The 2017 schedule isn't even out yet and the New England Patriots already have some bulletin board material for when they play the Steelers.
Le'Veon Bell is one of the best running backs in the game, a dynamic part to a dangerous Pittsburgh Steelers offense. Unfortunately for the Steelers, he played just 11 snaps in their AFC Championship Game loss to the Patriots due to a groin injury, rushing for just 20 yards on six carries. Bell said that had he been healthy for the game, Pittsburgh would have been off to Super Bowl LI and not the Patriots.
"I think if I go into that game healthy, it would be a different game," Bell told ESPN's First Take on Friday. "I think we beat them. I think the first time we played them in the beginning of the year, we kind of gave that game away. We were playing with our backup quarterback. We didn't even have Ben [Roethlisberger]. I think when we were playing them in the AFC Championship Game, when I was out there I wasn't feeling well at all. But the fact that I was out there, their game plan was so different just because I was out there."
Bell said his injury allowed the Patriots defense to focus elsewhere and keep the rest of the Steelers offense in check.
"I think if I go out there healthy and we go out there and do what we normally do, the way that we'd been doing it the whole season, especially in the playoffs, like running the ball, opening play-action, leaving AB [Antonio Brown] 1-on-1, leaving Sammie [Coates] 1-on-1, Jesse James, all the receivers, our O-line blocking the way they do, I think the outcome is really different. We'll get back to that next year, but I think we win that game."
When host Max Kellerman (who is still patiently awaiting Tom Brady's decline) reminded Bell that New England's 36-17 victory really wasn't that close, Bell had a quick retort.
"People don't understand the game of football all the way. When you have a run game, obviously it keeps their offense off the field. Especially when you have a guy like Tom Brady, who scores points; he can strike up the band on a consistent basis. You need a consistent run game that takes some clock off," he said. "Keep our defense off the field.
"I think with a solid run game, that outcome is different," said Bell.
Bell will have a chance to prove his point next season, with the Patriots and Steelers scheduled to square off in Pittsburgh.
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