Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell seemed to be well on his way to a second consecutive 100-yard game on the ground, which would have been a first in his career, after setting a career-high with 204 yards as a runner in the team’s last game.
He gained 71 yards in just the first quarter, but he only finished the game with 95 yards on 21 carries. Most of that was, of course, in the first half, during which Ben Roethlisberger failed to target him in the passing game.
That changed dramatically in the second half. After just two receptions in the previous game, Bell caught eight passes against the New Orleans Saints and set a franchise record with 159 receiving yards, the most by any Steelers running back.
Bell’s big day through the air gave him 65 receptions, which ranks 15th throughout the league, and tied for second among non-wide receivers. He also now has 643 receiving yards on the year, both of which are team records.
Bell also has two receiving touchdowns. The last time a Steelers running back caught more than one touchdown pass in a season was in 2007, when Najeh Davenport accomplished the feat. Sidney Thornton is the only running back to catch more than three in a season, catching four touchdown passes in 1979.
As a rookie, Bell caught 45 passes for 399 yards, though he failed to record a touchdown reception. He accomplished that in a shortened season because he missed the first three games due to an injury.
He’s already blown those numbers away in just 12 games this year, averaging nearly five and a half receptions per game for 54 yards. That is, of course, on top of his rushing performances, which we will get to later.
Bell is on pace for 87 receptions and 857 receiving yards, and seems likely to add another receiving touchdown by the end of the year. He is averaging two more receptions and 23 more yards through the air per game in comparison to his rookie season.
Now, let’s not forget that his 95 rushing yards also put him over 1000 in that category for the season, the first time any Steelers running back had accomplished that since 2010. He now has 1046 yards on the year on 216 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
In his rookie season, he totaled only 860 yards in 13 games on 244 carries, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, although he currently has five less rushing touchdowns than he did as a rookie.
On the year, through the air and on the ground, Bell has totaled 1689 yards on 281 touches, translating to a little over six yards per touch—none of which, mind you, have resulted in a fumble.
Bell is on pace for a little under 1400 rushing yards, and over 2200 total yards as a runner and a receiver, after totaling over 200 yards in back to back games. And this is about the time last season that he started warming up.