During the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season-opening squeak-by victory over the Cleveland Browns, the team managed to extend its record to 6-0 whenever running back Le’Veon Bell receives 20 or more carries or 25 or more total touches.
After Thursday night’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers are now 3-6 when his totals fall below those marks.
In Baltimore, Bell only ran the ball 11 times, despite doing so for 59 yards, while adding another five receptions for 48 yards.
The Steelers lost the game by a score of 26-6.
Obviously the significance between Bell’s touches and the team’s success is only correlative, outside of the fact that the second-year back is proving to be a talented player.
But it remains the case that when the Steelers are in the position to feed the ball to Bell, it also likely means that they are playing with a lead.
The Steelers never had a lead over the Ravens; in fact, they were losing from the Ravens’ opening possession after they turned the ball over to Baltimore to start the game, and were only able to cut the score to 10-6.
Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that Bell was able to put up 107 total yards on his 16 touches.
For the season, the running back is averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 32 rushing attempts for a total of 168 yards. He has also added 11 receptions for another 136 yards.
In all, he has racked up 304 yards in two games on 43 touches, averaging over seven yards every time Ben Roethlisberger is able to get the ball in his hands. That includes just under 10 yards per reception.
According to Pro Football Focus, Bell ranks third in the league among qualified running backs in averaging 2.31 yards per route run, trailing only Giovani Bernard of the Cincinnati Bengals—the running back drafted ahead of him—and Rashad Jennings of the New York Giants.
He has also run more routes than any other running back in the league aside from Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears, whose 74 routes run is 15 more than Bell’s 59. Two running backs are tied for third with 49 routes run.
The site also lists Bell as having the highest elusive rating among qualified backs, forcing 15 missed tackles on 43 touches. He also leads the league at the position by averaging a substantial 3.44 yards after contact per touch.
As promising as he was during his rookie season, Bell has already made significant strides in his second season, and it’s no surprise that there would be a correlation between the team’s success and Bell’s involvement.