PITTSBURGH — His first real game in 11 months finally at hand, Le’Veon Bell expected a few jitters. Or maybe a least a small sliver of rust.
Nope. Maybe because the Pittsburgh Steelers running back was too busy providing a needed reminder of what he can do when he’s healthy and — perhaps just as importantly — not in trouble with the commissioner’s office.
His feet jitterbugging through the Kansas City Chiefs defense with alarming ease, Bell rolled up 178 yards of total offense in a 43-14 romp on Sunday night that showcased just how dangerous the Steelers can look when all of their remarkably talented parts are on the field at the same time.
“It’s the ‘Juice,'” wide receiver Antonio Brown said. “Anytime we have Le’Veon out there on the field, we know the problems he’s going to present to the defense.”
One the Chiefs (2-2) had no answer for, not after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lit them up for four first-half touchdowns (five in all) and then let Bell get to work behind an offensive line that dominated the line of scrimmage.
“I was in the flow of the game,” Bell said. “I wasn’t even thinking about (being rusty).'”
Lining up all over the field in a variety of formations, Bell caught five passes for 34 yards and ran for 144 yards on 18 carries, including a 44-yard zig-zag in the fourth quarter that highlights Bell’s unique combination of patience and agility.
“We asked him to do a lot,” Roethlisberger said. “Not just be a running back and run the ball. But we put him in motion. We put him at wide receiver. We threw screens to him. We did a lot. And that’s the confidence and faith we have in him and his ability.”
Considering he missed the second half of 2015 with a torn MCL in his right knee and the first three games of this season while serving a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, Bell wasn’t exactly going to be picky about how he was used. Simply being out there and looking like the player who was an All-Pro in 2014 was enough.
“I just missed it,” Bell said.
And the Steelers missed him, recovering from a 31-point loss to Philadelphia the week before by handing Kansas City its worst setback in Andy Reid’s three-plus years on the job.
“Any time you get blown out, you want to respond,” Brown said.
STAR WATCH: Roethlisberger was held in check in a 34-3 meltdown at Philadelphia. A week later, he had as many touchdown passes as incompletions while going 22 of 27 for 300 yards and a quarterback rating of 152.5. Two of Roethlisberger’s passes went to Brown while Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jesse James caught one each.
“When you have a Hall of Fame quarterback, it looks good like that,” center Maurkice Pouncey said.
Brown boosted his career touchdown reception total to 42 and paid tribute to legendary golfer Arnold Palmer (a western Pennsylvania native) by wearing a pair of cleats that featured Palmer’s image.
SLOPPY SLOPPY: A week after forcing the New York Jets into eight turnovers, the Chiefs got careless with the ball. The game turned in the first quarter when Spencer Ware fumbled in Kansas City territory to set up one touchdown and Smith’s ill-advised screen pass was tipped and picked off to set up another.
“That game got out of hand early,” Smith said.
Kansas City will have plenty of time to figure out what went wrong. The Chiefs are off next week before traveling to Oakland on Oct. 16.
“Hats off to (the Steelers) for bouncing back after getting their tail whipped,” Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce said. “We have to do the same thing here over the bye. Tonight it was rough to go through this.”
GANG GREENE: Pittsburgh’s struggling defense received an impassioned pregame pep talk from Hall of Fame linebacker Kevin Greene, who was given the Ring of Excellence during a halftime ceremony. Whatever Greene said worked. The Steelers finished with four sacks — three more than they had in their first three games combined — and harassed Smith up and down Heinz Field.
COSTLY WIN: While Kansas City escaped with just one player’s status uncertain after running back Knile Davis was evaluated for a concussion, the Steelers will prepare for a visit from the Jets with the status of several starters to be determined. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert (foot) and linebacker Jarvis Jones (ankle) left and did not return. Wide receiver Heyward-Bey is dealing with a shoulder problem and reserve linebacker Anthony Chickillo exited with a left knee injury.