The Pittsburgh Steelers have one more game to play before they regain the services of running back Le’Veon Bell, who has quickly become arguably the best at his position in the league after breakout second season, in which he set a new franchise record for yards from scrimmage.
Bell was named a first-team All-Pro after gaining over 2200 total yards, including in excess of 800 yards through the air on 83 receptions. His ability to contribute in every facet of the offense for his position is largely what separates him from many of his contemporaries.
There is also another very intriguing facet of Bell’s performance that often goes unobserved, simply because it is when it doesn’t happen that it actually gets discussed. The young running back has proven to have exceptional ball control, having fumbled just once on 534 career rushes and 128 receptions, a combined 662 touches.
373 of those touches occurred during the 2014 season, during which he did not put the ball on the ground once. I have written about Bell’s security before, but it is fitting to do so again as we near his return, and especially so in light of what we saw last night.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles certainly has his case to make for being the best running back in the league himself. In his eighth season, he averages 5.5 yards per carry, and is also increasingly a threat in the receiving game.
In 2013, Charles led the league in total touchdowns, scoring on the ground a dozen times and adding another seven receiving touchdowns. But he also fumbled four times that year, losing two of them.
Charles fumbled five times in 2014, including a critical one against the Steelers in the penultimate game of the season. And last night, he fumbled twice first well into the red zone to open the game, and then at the end of the game after the Broncos had just tied it. The defense scooped it up for the game-winning score.
Charles is a remarkable talent. He once averaged 6.4 yards per rush for a full season, and owns two of the top 25 highest rushing totals for a single game in NFL history. But he has also fumbled 26 times.
For his career, Charles has rushed 1286 times and added 271 receptions for a touch total of 1557. He averages a fumble once every 60 touches, approximately, or more than 10 times as frequently as Bell has fumbled thus far in his career.
Ball security is not a trait possessed universally by all of the greats. Arguably the best running back of this generation, Adrian Peterson has put the ball on the ground 31 times 2275 touches in his career.
Considering numbers such as these helps put into perspective what a remarkable run that Bell has gotten his career off to with respect to keeping the football with the offense. There are not many in this sport with a game as complete as his.