During his rookie season, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell played in 13 games. We’ve now reached the 13-game mark of the 2014 season, so it would be a good time to look back and compare the second-year starter’s numbers from year one to year two.
Conveniently, due to his heavier workload over the last three games, Bell’s total carries are nearly identical. As a rookie, he ran the ball 244 times, averaging 18.77 carries per game. This year, he has 242 carries, or 18.62 per game.
While that number may be close, however, his efficiency has skyrocketed, as he is averaging more than a yard and a half more on the ground per carry than he did in his rookie season. He rushed for 860 yards as a rookie, but has already blown past that within the same timeframe, totaling 1231 rushing yards through the first 13 games this year.
Also taking a sharp step forward has been his incorporation into the passing game. In his second year, he has blown past the team’s previous record of receptions in a season by a running back with 71. He nearly tied the mark as a rookie with his 45 catches.
And he’s nearly averaging a yard more per reception than he did a year ago. As a rookie, his 45 receptions netted him 399 yards, averaging 8.9 yards per reception. He is averaging nearly 10 yards per reception this year, totaling 693 yards through the air, which is the second-most on the team.
His 71 receptions, in fact, still ranks second among running backs this season, and fourth among non-wide receivers, as well as 16th overall. The Steelers player with the third-most receptions n the team is tight end Heath Miller, with 52.
As a rookie, his 1239 yards from scrimmage was already a team record for rookie players. In his second season, he is just 111 yards away from surpassing the single-season total offensive yardage mark.
With his 1924 yards from scrimmage this season, Bell is averaging exactly 148 yards per game, so it’s certainly well within reason that he breaks that record on Sunday against the Falcons, with two more games to put it out of range for the next couple decades, unless he surpasses it himself by the end of his career.
Of course, he’s also started to pick up in the one area in which he’d been slacking, which was putting the ball in the end zone. He has four rushing touchdowns to go along with another receiving touchdown in the last three games, and now has eight touchdowns (five rushing and three receiving), matching his rookie season total.
With his 3183 yards from scrimmage through his first 26 career games, Bell has fumbled just one time on 602 career touches. He is averaging 5.3 yards per touch, inflated by his 6.2 yards per touch this season.
Looking back on the draft last year, it’s hard to imagine that the Steelers could have chosen any other running back.