We’ve taken a look at the Steelers red zone production from the receivers, but the rushing game deserves some love as well. Pro Football Reference has kept a tally of the red zone rushing statistics and below are their findings as it relates to Steelers’ running backs, Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams.
2015 Red Zone Rushing
DeAngelo Williams: 46 carries, 135 yards, 11TD’s
Le’Veon Bell: 14 carries, 41 yards, 3 TD’s
Career Red Zone Rushing
DeAngelo Williams: 228 carries, 720 yards, 35 TD’s
Le’Veon Bell: 102 carries, 255 yards, 17 TD’s
Obviously Bell’s injuries have skewed his numbers and his opportunities have been fewer over the past 2 seasons. But Williams proved to be a worthy backup throughout last year, and his presence may not have been more obvious than in the red zone. He led all players in red zone touchdowns with 11, and was 2nd in carries within the 20 yard line. Clearly the Steelers felt comfortable running the football in the red zone, and they had the best rusher to do it on that end of the field (again, a backup!!!).
The only season where he saw more touchdowns was in 2009 when he scored 12 times, but in 2015 he had more yards and was just one touchdown shy. And he’s made a solid career out of toting the rock in scoring position. I thought for sure when looking up the statistics that Jonathan Stewart was the go to guy in the red zone during Williams’ tenure in Carolina, but I was wrong. He consistently recorded more carries and touchdowns in this area, and given last year’s production, he doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
What a dilemma for the Steelers to ponder as they look to utilize both Bell and Williams in this space. Let’s just say that’s a great problem to have.
I don’t want to take anything away from Bell here either. Every time he touches the ball in the red zone, he has a nearly 17% chance of scoring. That’s nothing to scoff at. When healthy, Bell can prove to be the most lethal weapon in scoring position, and just imagine how much better he will be this upcoming year. They’ve added Ladarius Green, a huge body that can prove to be a great threat, along with the return of a healthy offensive line and of course, Antonio Brown. There’s simply too much there to contend with for opposing defenses. They will be forced to account for the aerial attack, and that can be the perfect opportunity for Bell to gash them on the ground.
Keep in mind that in his rookie season (2013), Bell was in the top ten in the league for red zone rushing touchdowns (8). And a year later, he wasn’t much further behind (6). Last season was a tough one for Bell, dealing with injury and the 2-game suspension, but he still managed to carve out 3 touchdowns on the ground (all in the red zone). And who could forget his most memorable red zone carry? You know what I’m talking about. The 1 yard, direct snap touchdown in the final seconds to seal a victory for the Steelers against the Chargers in a game quarterbacked by Mike Vick. They needed Bell, and he delivered.
That is what you need in a franchise running back, and that is what the Steelers got. It’s going to be a blast watching this red zone offense go to work next season. Obviously we have Bell’s possible 4-game suspension looming, but even if he misses time we know the team will be just fine turning to Williams in the interim.