Entering his third season at only 23 years of age, Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell has his name commonly pop up when talking about the “best back in the league.” He can do it all, and despite a suspension looming to begin the 2015 campaign, there is an understandable hype surrounding Bell and what he can do to top his magical 2014 season, in which he rewrote the Steelers single season yardage record previously held by Barry Foster.
That hype is over those 2,215 all-purpose yards he put up last year, but like Boobie Miles from the film, Friday Night Lights, hype is something that’s not real, and Bell is all real.
As far as earning the respect of Steelers fans and his teammates, that’s something that’s already in the books, but he has the chance to do something that only two other backs in history have achieved, with one of them already residing in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame, while the other has been a finalist who someday will likely get in.
Those two running backs are Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig, the only two members of the 1,000/1,000 club, in regards to rushing and receiving yardage in the same season. In 1985, Craig was the first to accomplish this for the San Francisco 49ers, when he tallied 1,050 yards on the ground and 1,016 through the air. Faulk became the second to join this rarefied air in 1999, as a member of the “Greatest Show On Turf” St. Louis Rams. He looked like a human joystick, running for 1,381 yards and also gathered 1,048 through the air and played a major role in helping the Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV.
Bell exhibits some traits of both, including an exciting blend of Craig’s power, being able to run between the tackles, while also showing the vision and gracefulness of Faulk. Perhaps his finest game of the 2014 season, was in the team’s 35-32 home loss at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, in which Bell ran for 95 yards, and had another 159 yards through the air for a total of 254 all-purpose yards. His versatility will be missed during the suspension, be it three games or fewer, as he is currently waiting to hear back from the NFL regarding his appeal.
As a member of the prolific Steelers offense, there are a lot of mouths to feed when it comes to football distribution, but Bell’s age and durability offer proof that he is a viable threat to become the third member of this elite group.
“When I used to drop the ball, it was because of concentration, trying to run before I caught the ball,” Bell said, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “Now I can make moves and I’m not thinking when I touch the ball; it happens naturally because I practice at it so much.”
It’s unlikely Bell has a shot at Foster’s club-record of 1,690 rushing yards this season, as he’ll have less games to work with, but he could potentially crack the aforementioned 1000/1000 club, as he’s looking to hit the ground running when he comes off his suspension. As a member of arguably the finest set of triplets the league has to offer, and considering his age, Bell has a legitimate shot at breaking down both barriers at some point in his career. At such a young age, it’s an accomplishment in itself that Bell is even being mentioned with such greats this early on, and it’s a testament to his Swiss Army Knife skill set.
Not to beat a dead horse, but the star running back in Friday Night Lights, the aforementioned Miles, reminds me of Bell, in such that there doesn’t appear to be a chink in his armor, as he truly can do it all.
“That boy can play some football,” L.V. Miles, Boobie’s uncle, said of the star tailback. “He can play left, he can play right, don’t make no difference. He can block, tackle, score the touch down, snap the ball, and kick the extra point. Hell, the boy will fill up the Gatorade cooler, walk the dog, and paint your back porch.”