In his first game as the only running back with double-digit career carries on the roster, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell logged 90 snaps on offense. The Steelers offense played 92 snaps.
Rookie third-round draft pick Dri Archer only logged three snaps—one of them coming with Bell also on the field—in his first game as the team’s primary backup running back. Undrafted rookie Josh Harris, only recently called up from the practice squad, was dressed for the game, but did not see a snap on offense.
On all, Bell finished the game with another 29 touches after logging a career-high 35 in the Steelers’ previous game, though that came two weeks ago. This time, it was split up between 21 carries and eight receptions, the third time this season he has caught at least eight passes.
He found great success in both areas, in fact, rushing for 95 yards on the ground on his 21 carries, which included a one-yard touchdown.
More impressive, of course, was his 159 receiving yards, which was by far a career-high, and is quite simply a very rare feat for running backs. Granted, much of that came with the game pretty much out of hand, with three receptions coming in the last minute of the game for 77 yards, including receptions of 30 and 33 yards.
The Steelers took to the ground early in the game, as Bell finished the first quarter with 71 rushing yards. In fact, he did not come down with either target in the passing game in the first half. All of his production through the air came in the second half.
Over the past two games, Bell has played 161 of the Steelers’ 166 snaps on offense, totaling 64 touches on 54 rushes and 10 receptions. He has totaled 476 yards in those two games, including 299 rushing yards and 177 receiving yards.
The rest of the running backs on the roster have logged a total of four snaps and totaled zero yards on one yards and zero receptions in that span.
Were it not for simply day to day, down to down wear and tear, I would truly ask, why bother? The second-year back already has nearly 1700 total yards of offense this year, and he’s more or less done it on his own.
His diverse skill set as a running, receiver, and blocker makes him a legitimate every down back, one of the few true such running backs in the league. That allows him, and the offense, to adapt to game circumstances, with the past game serving as a perfect example.
The Steelers started off against the Saints pounding the ball, but as the visiting team jumped ahead, the offense turned to the passing game. Bell transitioned seamlessly into receiver mode en route to having the best aerial game of his young career.
Archer and Harris necessarily promise to offer much in the way of production, based on a very small sample size. In other words, their primary and secondary function is simply to offer Bell a breather, but he simply hasn’t needed it yet.