The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Le’Veon Bell
Position: Running back
Experience: 3 Years
While Le’Veon Bell may have only started and played in six games in 2015, he was supposed to be the starting running back, of course, and was only withheld from that role due to a two-game suspension to being the season, and then a knee injury that prematurely ended his year.
But in between those hurdles, he certainly largely seemed to be his usual self, rushing for 556 yards on 113 carries for a 4.9 yards per carry figure, including three rushing touchdowns. This was just a year after he led the AFC in rushing.
His production in the passing game was way down, limited to just 136 yards on 24 receptions that produced just 5.7 yards per play, but, of course, most of that came without Ben Roethlisberger, who was injured in the first game in which Bell played, and only returned in the game that Bell was injured.
One could, then, make the case that his performance as a running back was all that more impressive, since the Steelers were forced to rely so heavily upon him without a great option under center, and in those four games that Pittsburgh was without Roethlisberger, he rushed for 449 yards, averaging 112 yards per game.
He averaged nearly 21 carries per game during that stint, and secured a walk-off victory in San Diego with a rushing touchdown out of the Wildcat formation as time expired in the game. He also had seven explosive carries in his six games played, with a long gain of 42 yards on the season.
Of great note is the fact that Bell did not fumble in 2015—nor did he fumble in 2014. In fact, he has fumbled just once thus far during his three-year career, for a total of 35 games. While the number of games played may not feel significant, consider the fact that he has fumbled just one time during his 844 total touches between rushes and receptions. That is a fumble on .118 percent of his touches.
There is no shortage of credit owed to DeAngelo Williams for the excellent work that he did in 2015 filling in for Bell for 10 of the 16 games this season, rushing for 907 yards on exactly 200 carries, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and posting a five-year team-high 11 rushing touchdowns. But there is no doubt that Bell’s return will have a profound impact on the offense in 2016.