With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team as a whole has suffered its ups and downs throughout the season, particularly the bi-polar offense that prefers the comforts of home. Even with all the road struggles, however, the Steelers are ranked seventh in the league in scoring, averaging 26.2 points per game.
On the flip side, the defense has struggled not only with youth and inexperience but also with injuries, en route to posting the 19th-best defense in points allowed, giving up 23.9 points per game, with hopes to start changing that down the home stretch.
Player: Le’Veon Bell, RB
Boy, is this the Steelers’ best draft pick in recent years or what? The only player to top the impact and value of Le’Veon Bell to the Steelers in recent years was the sixth-round draft pick that they used on Antonio Brown in 2010.
In his second season, Bell has started 24 games for the Steelers, rushing for 1811 yards and adding another 883 through the air for a combined 2694 yards. Most of that has come in the 11 games in which he’s played this year.
On the season, Bell has rushed for 951 yards on 195 carries, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, which is nearly a yard and a half better than the 3.5 yards he picked up per carry on 244 touches as a rookie.
He has also caught 57 passes, second only to Brown on the team, for another 484 yards, giving him 1435 yards. In total, he is averaging 130 yards on the ground and in the air per game. the Steelers average 406.4 yards per game, meaning that Bell’s production accounts for 32.1 percent of the team’s total offensive output.
It’s worth considering that, after the release of LeGarrette Blount, Bell is now by far the most experienced, and yet also the youngest, running back on the roster. The Steelers simply haven’t had a player impact the team in such a rapid and significant manner since Ben Roethlisberger was a rookie.
He was quite impressive as a rookie runner, particularly as the season wore on, but Bell took a major leap forward in his second year, slimming down and adding greater speed and quickness to his game, yet retaining his power running style while avoiding major body blows.
His patience as a runner may very well be second to none, including screen passes. He’s used center Maurkice Pouncey effectively to set up blocks down the field numerous times this season. But his maturation as not only a pass catcher, but as a blocker, has been a significant asset this year, as he’s become a true every down back, and is the team’s secondary target in the passing game.