No matter what one may think about what Le’Veon Bell may have done in his spare time away from the football field, it’s virtually impossible to deny the exceptional talent that he is within the framework of the game. The Pittsburgh Steelers running back is a unique talent who evokes excited reactions even from the stoic, as he did from New England head coach Bill Belichick recently when he was asked about Bell during a press conference.
Bell, of course, is going to be the next entrée on Belichick’s plate, as his Patriots are heading to Heinz Field for a Sunday showdown in Pittsburgh, and without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, he is no doubt expecting to see a heavy dose of the first-team All-Pro ball carrier, who has proven to be equally effective in the passing game.
As much as I admire what DeAngelo Williams has done as a fill-in starter, I do continue to support the notion that the offense is much better, and much more capable, when Bell is on the field, both as a runner and as a pass catcher, and Pro Football Focus points out a statistic that helps explain my opinion.
According to their own data tracking, Bell is currently averaging 4.2 yards per carry…after contact, which, as they point out, is more than what over half the running backs in the league average before contact.
Their site data also has Bell as leading the league in yards after contact last year as well. The reason that I believe that Bell is such an upgrade over even a quality player such as Williams is the fact that he is uniquely able to make plays where others cannot, whether it is due to his patience, his quickness, his elusiveness, or his strength.
He has a full repertoire of traits that help him make the most of every carry, which, in all honesty, often has the attribute of making his offensive line look good. To that point, Bell is currently averaging 5.5 yards per carry, and over three quarters of that yardage has been produced after initial contact.
And it is important to point out that it is not as though his yards after contact number is inflated. While he has a 44-yard run on his resume for the season, most of which came after contact, that is actually his only explosive play of the season. His two next-longest runs have gone for 18 and 14 yards. He is not picking up his yards on breakaway runs, but rather modest chunks, with five carries between 10 and 15 yards.
Also according to Pro Football Focus, however, the Patriots have the second-best run defense so far this year based on the website’s grading, and they are going to be fully expecting to line up and stop Bell upwards of 30 times, so the fourth-year running back is going to have his hands full on Sunday, I think.