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Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell: 'I'm a lot quicker, a lot more explosive now'

LATROBE, Pa. -- That Le'Veon Bell expects his best production yet in 2015 -- despite 2,215 total offensive yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago -- isn't borne from empty preseason bravado.

He's a different player from a year ago. The evidence is in the game video.

Bell told ESPN he's compared video from 2014 to his 2015 training camp and that he's simply getting where he wants to on the field at a faster pace. Bell dropped four pounds in the offseason and says he's at 2.9 percent body fat. His athleticism at camp has stood out.

"A lot of people talk about the season I had last year. They call it a breakout season, but I don't look at it like that," the third-year Steelers running back told ESPN. "I look at it as me just getting started. ... I still feel like I can do a lot of things better. Last year wasn't even close to me being my best."

Bell is a possible No. 1 overall pick in fantasy football drafts despite being suspended for the first two games for marijuana use. He isn't shying away from that top spot. Bell said he believes he left plays on the field last year, when he rushed for 1,361 yards on 290 carries (4.7 average) and caught 83 passes for 854 yards.

Added quickness will make the difference, Bell said.

"I watch myself now and I look at last year like I wasn't really quick," Bell said. "Feels like it was [slow motion]. I'm a lot quicker, a lot more explosive now."

In 2014, Bell averaged about 23 touches a game on offense in a lineup teeming with receiving options. This year, Ben Roethlisberger has to spread the ball to Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant and new running back DeAngelo Williams.

But Bell isn't worried about his production, because of his identity in the offense. This training camp, Bell has noticed he's involved in more receiving packages than at this time last year.

"I've got a sense of feeling that people pretty much know what they are going to get out of me -- a lot of rushing yards, a lot of receiving yards, touchdowns too," Bell said. "[Fantasy fans] just are going off what I did last year. This year, I'm a lot more confident I'll be putting up better numbers than I did last year rushingwise. With our line, they are opening a lot more holes for me. They'll be doing a lot more receiving things with me -- for sure [more receiving packages]. The things I do now in camp compared to last year is night and day. They look at me as an extended receiver."

Bell has a new nickname, too.

Call him Juice.

Coach Mike Tomlin grew up watching O.J. Simpson play, and he told Bell over the summer that his running style and ability to make defenders miss reminded him of Simpson, the original Juice.

Now, teammates call Bell "Juice" or "26" on the field. Bell is using #juice with some of his tweets.

"I kinda like it. Fans have started calling me that. It really started to stick," Bell said. "A lot of guys around the league have great nicknames. Calvin Johnson has Megatron. To have a good nickname like that and to be known around the league by it, it means a lot."

Will Bell become the modern-day Simpson? He's OK with that comparison -- on the field only.

"I was too young but obviously I watch a lot of films and highlights and greatest games and all that," Bell said of watching Simpson. "I've seen him play. It's a great compliment."

The Juice won't be squeezed until Week 3, when Bell can suit up for the first time. Bell will be allowed to attend team meetings during the week. He isn't sure of his schedule yet but has contemplated training in Miami during those two game weekends.

Upon return, Bell has plenty of motivation to produce -- he hopes to one day help his mother, Lisa Bell, live easier. Bell, a former second-round pick, has two years left on his current contract and hopes he can earn enough so his mom doesn't have to work.

"I want my mom not to have to worry about anything -- my mom, she struggled," Bell said. "She made a lot of sacrifices for me to get me in a position where I am now. I want to make sure I continue to put her name in good graces and allow her to not have to work anymore, not have to do all the things that she did to help me grow up. I want to make everything easy on her."

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