The Pittsburgh Steelers waited 15 games into the 2013 season before they finally got their first 100-yard rusher. Le’Veon Bell didn’t have them waiting very long in his second season, rushing for 109 yards on opening day.
He did so on 21 carries, including an impressive 38-yard touchdown run, his first score from distance in his 14-game career. The longest scoring play in his career prior to yesterday was in fact his first, an eight-yard touchdown run in his debut.
More than that, he set career-highs in receiving yards with 88, and total yards, coming in just shy of his first 200-yard game for all-purpose yards.
Bell’s previous career-high for all-purpose yards in a game was 139, which he accomplished in Week Nine last year. He shattered that yesterday with a total of 197 yards on 27 touches.
When the Steelers drafted Bell, they made it clear that he would be their lead runner in no time. Despite hardly playing at all in the preseason, he entered the starting lineup as soon as he was healthy enough to play, in the fourth game.
He’s made 14 straight starts since then, and when the Steelers do, or are able to, feed Bell, the ball, they have been successful.
Including yesterday’s game, Bell has carried the ball 20 or more times on six different occasions in his career. The Steelers have won all six of those contests.
Additionally, when Bell has 25 or more touches, the Steelers are also 6-0. That includes one 19-carry, six-reception performance, so the two statistics do not completely overlap.
It’s also worth noting that Bell’s 38-yard touchdown run is the second-longest run, and third-longest play, of his career, and just the fifth run of 20 or more yards.
He did have two more explosive plays through the air yesterday, adding to the five receptions of 20 or more yards that he caught in his rookie season.
Meanwhile, the rest of the backfield combined for five carries for 10 yards, including a nice seven-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount. Both Blount and Dri Archer were also targeted once through the air on incompletions.
At 27 touches to five, it’s clear that the Steelers are still favoring Bell, and after yesterday’s performance, they should. It was the best game of his young career, averaging not just 5.2 yards per carry, but 7.3 yards per touch.
With the homerun ball now proven in his repertoire and his lighter, more agile frame evident in the season opener, it wouldn’t be surprising if head coach Mike Tomlin soon nixes the idea of fueling both backs with ideas of a lead dog mentality. When Bell gets the ball, the Steelers have won, and that’s not an equation to mess with until it proves untrue.