Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers offense struggled last season inside the red zone, NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks ranked running back Le’Veon Bell fourth in the league as far as red zone performance goes in a recent article.
Some might say it’s a little premature to anoint Bell as one of the top running backs in the game after one spectacular season, but there is a whole lot to like about the 23-year-old’s versatile game. Bell is a rare big back (6-1, 244 pounds) with nimble feet, outstanding balance and lateral quickness. He has a knack for eluding tacklers in the hole, yet also displays the power and explosiveness to run through contact. Bell’s diverse skills helped him post 2,000-plus scrimmage yards and 11 touchdowns in 15 games as the Steelers’ workhorse back last fall. Given more opportunities to cash in at the end of drives, Bell could become the No. 1 guy on this list and drive Todd Haley’s offense to the top of the NFL charts.
So, just how good is Bell inside the red zone since coming into the league? While most people would like to measure his success by looking at his yards per carry average on runs inside the opponent’s 20 yard-line, I choose to judge it by the successful play rate.
Success rate, in case you forgot, is a measure of running back consistency based on the percentage of carries where the player gains 40 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent of needed yards on second down or 100 percent of needed yards on third or fourth down.
Since coming into the league in 2013, Bell has had 88 rushes inside the red zone and 36 of them (40.9%) equated to being successful. Of those 36 successful runs, 14 resulted in touchdowns.
The other running backs who made Brook’s list were Arian Foster (5th), Jamal Charles (3rd), Adrian Peterson (2nd), and Marshawn Lynch (1st). With those names being noted, it’s only fair to look at the red zone success of all four players over the course of the last two seasons to see how they compare to Bell.
Lynch actually has the best red zone success rate of the five running backs over the course of the last two season as 58 of his 108 rushes (53.7%) inside the red zone were successful. 24 of those also resulted in touchdowns. Charles had a 52.2% success rate, while Foster was next on the list with a 51.2% rate. Peterson only had 37 red zone carries over the course of the last two seasons and 16 of them were successful ones (43.2%).
As you can see, Bell’s success rate so far in his career inside the red zone isn’t great when compared to the other four running backs on Brook’s list. The Steelers running back is currently scheduled to miss the first three games of the 2015 season due to a suspension, so it will be interesting to see which Steelers running back gets the majority of red zone work during his absence. When Bell is allowed to return, it will be interesting to see if he can better his success rate inside the opponent’s 20 this season. Does Brooks have Bell ranked too high?