When the Pittsburgh Steelers said that they were going to use running back Le’Veon Bell, they weren’t kidding, as he played over 50 snaps in his first game back from a three-game suspension. Another thing they weren’t kidding about? The plan to use him as a wide receiver.
Of his 55 total snaps, including penalty snaps, Bell lined up as a wide receiver on 15 plays, and some of them even came on running plays. On the 29 designed passing plays for which he was on the field, the running back lined up out wide or in the slot 12 times.
In other words, Bell played wide receiver over 41 percent of the time when the Steelers intended to pass and he was on the field on Sunday night—and he even played the position some when they were not throwing the ball. DeAngelo Williams carried the ball with Bell at the line of scrimmage three times, though one run was negated by a penalty.
Two thirds of the time—or 10 times, Bell lined up on the left side of the formation, with five additional snaps coming on the right side. He was the outside or only wide receiver on his side of the field for eight of his 15 snaps at the position.
Despite his fairly liberal usage as a wide receiver, however, it did not necessarily translate into a vast amount of targets—although the Steelers did not take to the air as frequently as they might, due in part to the fact that they ran the ball a fair amount and that they had some short scoring drives due to big plays or short fields.
Bell was targeted six times over the course of the game, which actually did tie for the second-highest number of total targets over the course of the game for the Steelers’ offense, or would qualify for the second-most outright if you consider that one target for the other player was on a play negated by penalty.
He did catch five of the six passes thrown in his direction. The sixth pass did go off his hands, but it was a poorly-thrown ball that he had to reach for across his body, and so it does not go down in the books as a drop, even if he was able to get a piece of it.
Although his total gains as a wide receiver only accumulated 34 yards—averaging 5.7 yards per reception—he gained 36 yards after the catch, as three of his receptions came from a pass targeted behind the line of scrimmage, including his 17-yard gain, on which he gained 22 yards after the catch. Only two of his targets came at least five yards down the field.
Bell lined up as a wide receiver on four of his six targets, coming out of the backfield the other two times. Three of his five receptions came when he lined up as a wide receiver, while the other two were from the running back position.