Second-year Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell began the 2014 season recording over 100 yards from scrimmage in every game through the first half of the year. That trend came to a screeching halt on Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens.
In fact, Bell had the worst rushing performance of his brief career, establishing new lows in yards (20) and rushing attempts (10), as well as nearly matching his career-lowing in yards per attempt in a single game (2.0), which was 1.8.
As a receiver, he did catch five passes for 38 yards and his second receiving touchdown in the past three weeks. He now has 47 receptions on the year, which is two more than he had in his 13 games last season.
But between his yards on the ground and through the air, Bell only accumulated 58 yards total in the game. That is the third-lowest total of his career, the other two games occurring in his second and fourth games played.
During the first game against the Ravens this season, Bell only had 11 carries, but he picked up 5.4 yards per for 59 rushing yards, while adding another 48 yards through the air, so it’s not as though he hasn’t been able to run against Baltimore. He also found success against them last year, though their front seven is admittedly improved since then.
The week before, meanwhile, was only one of three times this season in which Bell averaged under four yards per carry. Though he finished the game with 92 yards on 24 carries at 3.8 yards per clip, that statistic was bolstered by some late-game running aimed at draining the clock.
On the season, Bell is averaging 4.7 yards per carry on 151 rushes for a total of 711 yards, to go along with just one rushing touchdown. He is still comfortably in third place in total rushing yards, however.
In his rookie season, he rushed for 860 yards on 244 carries, averaging just 3.5 yards per rush. He is averaging fewer carries per game in 2014, but he is obviously well on pace to rush for more yards per rush, as well as per game, and should give the Steelers their first 1000-yard back in the past few years.
But as the offense continually shifts more and more to Ben Roethlisberger and the aerial assault, the carries for Bell may become less and less prominent. That may have been part of the plan when the Steelers drafted him due to his receiving abilities.
After all, he remains 13th in the league in receptions—among all players. He ranks second among running backs and third among non-wide receivers in receptions as well, and that is all while sharing targets with the player who has more targets and receptions than anybody in the league—Antonio Brown.