Head-to-head: Packers RB Eddie Lacy vs. Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell


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The Steelers had a chance to take Eddie Lacy in the second round of the NFL draft, but they opted instead to select Le'Veon Bell with the 48th overall pick. And they are glad they did.

Even though Lacy has already emerged as one of the top running backs in the league and is on the verge of establishing a number of rookie records for the Green Bay Packers, the Steelers have never looked back at their decision to take Bell.

"It was an easy decision for me," coach Mike Tomlin said.

While Lacy has four 100-yard rushing games and is one of just nine backs in the league with more than 1,000 yards rushing, Bell has become something of a focal point and dual threat in the Steelers offense despite not having a 100-yard rush game.

He has touched the ball 144 times in the past five games for 605 yards and three touchdowns.

Last week, Bell upstaged Cincinnati's Giovani Bernard -- the first running back taken in the 2013 draft -- in a 30-20 victory against the Bengals, combining for 107 yards on 29 touches and scoring a touchdown. Bernard was held to 33 yards rushing and 13 receiving.

Now Bell gets another chance against Lacy, the more heralded running back from the 2013 draft class, when the Steelers face the Packers today at Lambeau Field.

"Le'Veon is a great back," Lacy said the other day. "They picked who they wanted, and I landed in a great place. I'm happy where I am."

So are the Packers.

Lacy has four 100-yard rushing games and leads all NFL rookies with 1,028 rushing yards. But, after a slow start, he has rushed for 977 yards in the past 11 games, more than any other back in that stretch.

"You have to love his running style," said Packers Coach Mike McCarthy, a Greenfield native who went to the former Bishop Boyle High School in Homestead. "He breaks a ton of tackles, he's always leaning forward and he has excellent balance.

He's one of those football players where the game comes very natural to him."

Like a lot of other NFL teams, the Steelers thought Lacy was the best running back in the 2013 draft, a dominant runner at Alabama who rushed for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns his final season with the Crimson Tide

But, like a lot of teams, the Steelers were reluctant to use a high pick on Lacy because of medical questions about a big-toe injury. Lacy had the bone in his toe fused into the joint when he was at Alabama, causing NFL teams to worry about the long-term ramifications of his injury.

Lacy never missed a game his final season at Alabama, but he rarely, if ever, practiced during the week because of the injury.

"I had a lot of injuries coming out of college," Lacy said. "That's pretty much it. A lot of teams didn't pick me because of my injury history."

The Steelers were one of them. Instead, they drafted Bell, whom offensive coordinator Todd Haley compared to 1996 NFL offensive rookie of the year Eddie George.

Bell has yet to have a 100-yard rushing game -- his best outing was 93 yards against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Steelers have gone 22 games without a 100-yard rusher, the longest active streak in the league.


Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com; twitter: @gerrydulac.

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