Pittsburgh Steelers: Saved by the Bell
The Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the premier offenses in the 2014–2015 NFL season. Which was enough to get them to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011–2012 when Tim Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime for an 80 yard touchdown that gave the Denver Broncos the win. That game will most likely leave Steelers fans shaking their head in disbelief for years to come.
However, since then, Pittsburgh has added some weapons to their arsenal on the offensive side of the football. One in particular, is now 3rd year running back Le’Veon Bell out of Michigan State University, who has been nothing short of spectacular for Pittsburgh in his short time there.
How good has Le’Veon Bell been?
In his 2013 rookie season, Bell played less than a full season due to a right foot injury that occurred in a preseason game against the Washington Redskins. In 2013, after returning from injury, he had 244 carries for 860 yards (3.5 YPC), along with 45 receptions for 399 yards (8.9 avg) for a total of 1,259 total yards on 289 total touches and he added 8 touchdowns that season, all of which were rushing touchdowns.
Bell showed flashes of his broad skill set in his first year in the league that left the Steelers organization and fans excited to see what he could do the following season after making the transition to the NFL and gaining experience in offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s system.
Le’Veon has lived up to the expectation that he would be a great “all-around” running back in the NFL, one of the few backs that can run, catch and protect his QB when needed by pass blocking. Bell came out swinging in his 2014–2015 season as he showed that he was ready to take his game to the next level. He had 290 carries for 1,361 yards (4.7 YPC), along with 83 receptions for 854 yards (10.3 avg) for a total of 2,215 total yards on 373 total touches and he added 11 total touchdowns (8 rushing and 3 receiving). Let’s not forget to mention that Bell has only fumbled once in his 29 games with 662 career touches.
His 2014–2015 breakout season was good enough to land him the 2015 NFL Fantasy Player of the Year award along with the NFL FedEx Ground Player of the Year award.
When asked what his ultimate individual goal as a running back was; Bell answered: “I want to be remembered. I want to change the game. People look at my running style and say, “You run different.” I love to hear that.” Bell definitely does run different, standing at almost 6’2”, 245 lbs, he has extremely quick feet for his size and uncanny patience while waiting on his blocking. He can go around you with his great lateral movement or run through you with his size; pick your poison.
2015–2016 Season Outlook
Bell is slated to miss the first 3 games of the upcoming season stemming back to an arrest in August of 2014. Bell was arrested with former teammate LeGarrette Blount for possession of marijuana and Bell was charged separately for driving under the influence.
Since then Bell has been humble about the whole situation and has vowed to leave these types of incidents in the past: “One, weed is not important. It’s something that I can easily say bye to. If I want to do it later on in my life, then I’ll enjoy it later on. I love the game of football. I don’t want anything, whatever it is — performance-enhancing drugs, marijuana, alcohol, women — that could get me in trouble and make me miss football.”
Bell is in the process of appealing his suspension in hopes to get it reduced from 3 games to 2 games. Many are optimistic that Bell’s suspension will be reduced since he is a first-time offender of the league policy and that he had a clean record before the incident.
Although Bell will play another shortened season this upcoming year, the Steelers are hopeful for the same type of production that he provided last season when he returns to the field. The Steelers did make a key offseason signing with former Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, who should fill-in nicely during Bell’s suspension and provide needed breathers for Bell when he returns.
Bell, along with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown will look to lead the Steelers back to the playoffs this season and hopefully reach the Super Bowl, somewhere they haven’t been since 2011 and haven’t won since 2009.