Le’Veon Bell’s First Game Performance Compared To NFL Greats

By Jeremy Hritz

There aren’t many bright spots right now for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it’s uncertain if there will be any sunshine in the remaining games. Yet if there is any player that is giving the team hope for the future, it is rookie running back Le’Veon Bell.

While Bell didn’t run for 200 yards, or even 100 yards in his regular season debut, he demonstrated that he possesses explosiveness and vision to manipulate defenses to create yards even when there don’t appear to be any. The promising fact to consider about Bell’s performance against the Minnesota Vikings is that it was his first game action since his preseason carries against the Washington Redskins. With twelve games remaining on the schedule, it is exciting to consider what Bell can do as he acquires more game experience and gets more comfortable in the Steelers offense.

So how does Bell’s first game performance stack up to some NFL running back greats? Take a moment and look at the chart below which details where Bell’s performance landed.

Player Carries Yards Rushing Avg Rushing TDs Receptions Yards Receiving TDs
Marshall Faulk 23 143 6.2 3 1 31 0
LaDainian Tomlinson 36 113 3.14 2 1 12 0
Adrian Peterson 19 103 5.4 0 1 60 1
Curtis Martin 19 102 5.4 1 0 0 0
Eric Dickerson 31 91 2.9 0 0 0 0
Barry Sanders 9 71 7.9 1 0 0 0
Le’Veon Bell 16 57 3.6 2 4 27 0
Jerome Bettis 5 24 4.8 0 1 6 0
Tony Dorsett 4 11 2.75 0 0 0 0
Emmitt Smith 2 2 1 0 0 0 0
Walter Payton 8 0 0 0 1 -4 0
AVERAGE 15.6 65 3.9 0.8 0.8 12 0.09

At first glance, Bell’s performance doesn’t leap out of the table, as his average yards per carry are below the average of the greats on this list at 3.6 yards, as are his total yards. However, of the backs listed, Bell is only one of five that scored a rushing touchdown in his first game, and only one of three to score two touchdowns, joining the company of Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson. When you consider that Bell did this on only 16 carries, while it took Faulk 23 carries and Tomlinson 36 carries, it makes his accomplishment that much more impressive.

Another notable aspect of Bell’s performance was his work catching the football. Again, while he didn’t have an all-world game, he did catch four passes for 27 yards. Out of the eleven backs listed above, Bell caught the most passes in his first game, though not for the most yardage. Could this be an indication of the versatility he will bring to the Steelers throughout his career?

So where will Bell’s performance stack up among NFL greats at the end of the season, and just what will that mean for the Steelers currently lifeless 2013? If Bell would average 57 yards per game for the remainder of the year, he would end up with 741 rushing yards, which would be a disappointing total. It seems more likely that Bell will string together a couple hundred yard games and accumulate a year-end rushing total of 1000+ yards.

As far as what that means for the team’s success, it probably isn’t enough to get the Steelers into the playoffs, but it should make the running game a legitimate threat, which is something that has been missing in Pittsburgh for a long time.

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