Several Jets had a little bit extra going for them in the Jets-Pittsburgh battle at MetLife on Sunday. We're talking about all those people who used to wear black and gold and are now wearing green and white.
Guys like Hines Ward, once a long-time Steelers Pro Bowl WR, now a Jets offensive assistant who got a Gatorade shower after the Jets' 16-10 conquest was complete. And DL Steve McLendon, who spent his first six pro seasons in Pittsburgh and his last four in North Jersey. And tackle Kelvin Beachum, who played his first four seasons in western Pennsylvania.
And, of course, Le'Veon Bell.
"Obviously, every win feels great," the Jets' Bell-cow back said in his new team's MetLife locker room. "Butt his one had a little extra topping on it."
Bell spent his first five seasons as a dominant ground-game force for the Steelers. Then came last year's contract sitout and this spring's free-agent signing with the Jets. The season hasn't unfolded exactly the way Le'Veon wanted as he and Jets fans expected to see the back who averaged 1,600 scrimmage yards and 8-plus touchdowns a season.
But Bell will take the hard work that led him to his production vs. his old team — 25 carries for 72 yards (which includes an 11-yard loss on a second-quarter run when his hole was shut down, he tried to reverse course and was tackled for a big loss), plus 4 receptions for 21 yards, 93 YFS in all.
"I'm sore and there's no better feeling," Bell said. "Coach Gase, he told me before the game, he was like, 'I got you today, I'm making sure.' He's like, 'I'm making sure you'll get that ball today.' Credit Coach Gase, the guys upfront for us being efficient, especially when we needed to. When we needed to run the ball, we ran it well. It felt good today."
Adam Gase said: "He did a really good job this week of kind of staying level. I kept talking to him and asking him how he was, and he was great all week long, just focused on what he had to do. He knew we would make sure he had opportunities to affect this game. We were going to try and give him the ball and give him some chances to make some plays. He knew what kind of defense we were playing. He knew this was a really good defense and there wouldn't be a ton of 20-yard runs. That first series was big for us. He some really good runs."
That opening series was another first-drive TD for the Jets, their fifth in the last nine games. And on that march, Bell's plays were: 7-yard reception from Sam Darnold to begin the drive, 7-yard run, minus-1 run, 7-yard run, 5-yard run, 7-yard run, all leading to Darnold's best throw of the game, the 23-yarder to Robby Anderson in double coverage for the TD.
"It was fun going against my old teammates, guys who could never hit me in practice," Bell said. "We had an opportunity to really go at it today, so it was fun. I respect all those guys over there. They play hard. It was tough. Obviously, Coach [Mike] Tomlin's game plan, it was great. Credit to those guys. I'm glad we came out on top."
See Top Images from Postgame Following the 16-10 Victory Over Pittsburgh in the Home Finale
It was even fun doing friendly battle with the Terrible Towel-twirling Steelers fans who accompany their team all over the country, certainly all around the Northeast, and turn home teams' stadiums into neutral fields.
At the end of the game, said LB Jordan Jenkins, "I had some explicit words for some of the Steelers fans because they were talking trash during pregame warmups, so I had a few words for them and a couple of gestures that weren't pretty nice," adding, "I love it when people talk trash. It just makes the game that much more fun."
And the visiting fans didn't react as Bell and some others thought they might after his break with their team after last season.
"The fans showed love today," he said. "They didn't boo me or anything. They showed a lot of love when I went out there. It was green and white cheering for me, it was yellow and black cheering for me, too. I was smiling when I saw all the '26' jerseys, whether it was the Jets or the Steelers."
With the game on the line — and Bell expected no less from his old mates — the Jets D came up big to finish the job the offense had started.
"Our defense came up huge," Bell said. "We got big plays in big moments and that's what we needed."
A few Jets defenders returned the compliments to Bell and the organization's former "Men of Steel."
"There's so many guys in here that were with that group over there and hats off to that group," S Jamal Adams said. "They're well-coached, a great organization, and we have a lot of respect for them."
McLendon added: "We always want to win, especially against a team we all played for. It's always good to get a good win. But at the end of the day, we did it together."