Le'Veon Bell NFL Stats
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Le'Veon Bell NFL Game Log
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(Compared to other RBs)
Pittsburgh Steelers Team Injury Report
Heading into his fifth NFL season, Bell has established himself as arguably the most dangerous and productive all-around running back in the league. He's delivered at least 100 scrimmage yards in an amazing 28 of 34 regular-season games over the last three years, and in 2016 he overcame a three-game suspension (and Week 17 absence) to finish second among RBs in targets, receptions and receiving yards and fifth in rushing yards while leading the NFL in total yards after contact. Unfortunately, the most important number in that list might be the '34', as Bell has missed 14 games over those three seasons due to various injuries and suspensions. Last year ended with another injury sustained in a playoff loss to the Patriots, and he underwent core muscle surgery in the offseason, but he's expected to be healthy by Week 1. Whether he can stay that way is another question. The Steelers certainly seem prepared to give him another big workload, heading into camp with only third-round pick James Conner, former Chiefs backup Knile Davis, and special teams ace Fitzgerald Toussaint behind Bell on the depth chart, but despite a combination of elite vision, patience and elusiveness that allows him to avoid plenty of contact, his questionable durability is still a major drawback.
There's no question about Bell's ability— he was the top RB in fantasy two years ago, and the No.4 back in per-game PPR scoring last year. But how many Bell games are you paying for? Where is his body at after tearing his MCL in the eighth week of the 2015 season? As training camp approached, Bell was whistling a happy tune, saying he would be 100 percent for the start of training camp (he's also been playing pick-up basketball; we suppose that's an encouraging sign). That's what virtually every player is conditioned to say, be it from overconfidence, their superhero histories, or wanting to protect their turf and livelihood. Alas, regardless of his health, it's been reported that the running back is facing a four-game ban to start the season. Bell has said he doesn't expect to miss any time, but that notion seems overly optimistic at this point. Beyond that, we'd love to see Bell at full speed, because at his best he's the most talented back in the NFL today. He offers a terrific blend of speed and power; probably the best sense of patience and timing at the position; and the ability to play on all downs and packages. When the Steelers have their Triplets of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Bell on the field, it's probably the league's best offense, with no proper way to defend. Your summer assignment is to watch Bell like a bloodhound, monitor his every move. With that in mind, once again, DeAngelo Williams represents a valuable insurance policy for Bell.
Bell established himself as the Steelers' bell cow last year, finishing second in the league to DeMarco Murray in scrimmage yards and staying healthy all season after missing the first three games of his rookie campaign with a foot injury. While he doesn't have breakaway speed, Bell's power, vision and patience are complemented by surprising agility for his size (6-1, 244), allowing him to slip tackles nearly as often as he simply runs through them. His breakout performance was boosted by an excellent run-blocking offensive line that was one of the league's best at denying penetration, ensuring Bell had time to find holes as they developed. He also showed dramatic improvement as a receiver, finishing second on the team to Antonio Brown with 105 targets. And despite the Steelers' penchant for passing in the red zone — they were fourth in the league in red-zone pass percentage (61.7) — Bell scored nine of his 11 touchdowns in the red zone, including three receiving touchdowns on 13 targets (T-1st among RB). Bell is suspended for the first two games because of a substance abuse policy violation, but otherwise is well-positioned for another big year.
Bell missed last season's first three games with a foot injury, but gained the lion's share of the Steelers' rushing duties upon his return and ended up staying healthy while averaging nearly 100 total yards per game in his rookie year despite a meager 3.5 YPC. Though he's slow for a running back (just a 4.60 40 time), he's an effective receiver and goal-line back, and should benefit from the Pittsburgh offensive unit getting healthy over the offseason.
Though he should be tough to bring down at 6-1, 244, Bell broke only 21 tackles last year, and he'll have to show either more elusiveness or more tackle-breaking ability to hold off import LeGarrette Blount and super-fast draft pick Dri Archer. It's disturbing for Bell that Blount – signed to a two-year-deal – is a very similar kind of back at almost the same size and speed. Worse, Bell only outrushed Blount by 88 yards and one touchdown last year despite rushing 91 more times.
Still, Bell has an edge through the air – he averaged a very fine 8.9 yards per reception, though a higher catch rate than last year's 68.2 percent certainly couldn't hurt – and is the incumbent here. Bell will likely take the majority of the carries for the Steelers this year, and it's not unreasonable to expect him to build on the improvement he showed in last season's final five games.
With the 48th pick in this year's draft, the Steelers seemingly drafted Bell to be their starter this season. Gone is Rashard Mendenhall, and Jonathan Dwyer – last year’s leading rusher – and Isaac Redman aren't likely to hold off the rookie who rushed for 1,793 yards at Michigan State last season.
Behind an offensive line that features Mike Pouncey and 2012 first-round pick David DeCastro, Bell should find good running room. At 6-2, 237, Bell isn't fast (4.6 40 at the combine), but he has good field vision, nimble feet and powerful legs to push the pile. Moreover, he comes from a program that ran a pro-style offense, which offensive coordinator Todd Haley speculates should make Bell's transition to Pittsburgh's offense easier.
LaRod Stephens-Howling will complete for a third-down role, but Bell is expected to stay on the field on passing downs as he's a good blocker and has soft hands (78 career receptions in college). All of which puts Bell in an excellent position to produce as a rookie once he is able to return from a foot injury that will hold him out of action early in the season.