With two games left to play in the season, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has already gained more yards from scrimmage than has any player before in franchise history after adding another 119 yards to his total yesterday afternoon against the Atlanta Falcons.
It wasn’t easy to come by, either, especially on the ground, where the home team seemed determined to stop the prolific ball carrier and not let him be the one to beat them. And yet the game more or less followed the script that I had laid out earlier in the week.
The Falcons defense has given up more yardage through the air than anybody in the league this season, but in terms of receiving touchdowns allowed, their totals are respectable at worst—certainly much better than the Steelers’.
The problem, however, came once opponents actually got the ball down the field through the air. Because coming into this game, the Falcons defense had given up more rushing touchdowns than anybody else in the league, and Bell just made that total worse by adding a pair from distances of 13 and one yards out.
Had this been the midpoint of the season, that wouldn’t seem to have been the likely result, as at that time, the Steelers’ offense was very much geared toward attacking the end zone through the air.
During a three-game homestand, for example, the offense generated 15 receiving touchdowns while failing to add a single touchdown on the ground. In fact, from the third game of the season until four weeks ago, the Steelers failed to put the ball in the end zone using the running game even a single time.
That has changed over the course of the past month, and during that span, the Steelers have gone 3-1. And it has bolstered the one ingredient missing on Bell’s All-Pro resume—points.
Bell has rushed for six touchdowns over the span of just the last four games, giving him seven rushing touchdowns on the year. He also caught his third receiving touchdown last week, giving him 10 total scores for the season. As a rookie, in 13 games, he finished with eight rushing touchdowns and zero receiving touchdowns.
His seven total scores in the past four games have not only been impressive, they’ve been critical. As the weather turns more bitter, the ability to keep on the ground and crack the goal line with the rushing attack becomes more important. Fortunately, the Steelers seem to have found a groove in that area.
Given that the Steelers seemingly have no real options at running back to punch it in at the goal line behind their second-year star, it’s certainly beneficial that he is rediscovering a knack for getting into the end zone. He can pile up as many yards as he wants, and surpass any number of records, but what shows up on the scoreboard is the yardage that actually makes it across the goal line.