While Antonio Brown may have just completed the more remarkable season as a wide receiver in franchise history, we would be remiss to ignore the equally remarkable season that running back Le’Veon Bell had as a receiver in relation to the Pittsburgh Steelers record books.
While his three touchdowns have been matched by the position in the past, his 83 receptions and 854 yards shattered franchise-bests of the past by Steelers running backs. Bell more than doubled his receiving yardage from his rookie season, and nearly doubled his receptions, and those numbers were already high on the franchise running back lists. It also didn’t hurt that he averaged a remarkable 10.3 yards per reception.
In his regular season finale, prior to getting injured, Bell added another six receptions for 80 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals, which was the fourth-most receiving yards in a game that he totaled this year. It was also the eighth game in which he caught at least six receptions, and the fifth time he averaged over 10 yards per reception in a game.
Nor were they insignificant plays, as he gained yardage in chunks on half of his receptions. But his final reception was a costly one, as it resulted in a knee injury that seems likely to keep him sidelined for the first postseason game of his career.
One of those chunk plays came on the second play of the game when the Steelers ran a screen pass with the offensive line getting out in front. With Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster doubling the defensive tackle and David DeCastro blocking downfield, Bell was able to get up the field unimpeded into the secondary for 22 yards.
Early in the second quarter, the Steelers ran out of a three tight end look as Ben Roethlisberger bluffed the play action and dropped back before checking down to Bell in the left flank with pressure closing in on his face.
It seemed like a play doomed to fail, with linebacker Vincent Rey stalking the top of the route, but Bell showed his speed and athleticism by spinning wide of the linebacker and finding the sidelined untouched, ripping off a 26-yard run before being chased down.
While not his most impressive play of the day, this eight-yard reception was another good example of what makes Bell an effective pass catcher in this offense, particularly with athletic offensive linemen, because he has the patience and vision to set up his own blocks to get the most out of a play, which he did here to pick up eight yards on first down.
Midway through the third quarter, on the first play of the drive, Bell participated in his last play of the game. With Will Johnson in the sidecar, Bell flanked out to the right, cutting behind the linebackers, caught the ball down the field, and was hit as he turned upfield in the knee after gaining 19 yards. He went down and stayed down, and since then has been limited to riding a bike.