So, remember that time earlier this season that I wrote an article about how Le’Veon Bell fumbled, and that it was a big deal due simply to how utterly rare that has been over the course of his career? Well, now I’m writing an article about him fumbling and it being a big deal because he keeps fumbling.
It hasn’t been a ‘big deal’ yet because he hasn’t lost one yet this year, but after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fourth-year back’s fumble on Sunday against the Browns, he now has three fumbles this season, which has quadrupled his career fumble total that he brought into this season.
In fact, if you go back to the preseason, in the one game in which he played, he fumbled then too, so he has fumbled the ball in a game now four times since he has returned from his latest knee injury. I think this is a worthy point at which to stop and consider whether or not this is becoming an issue.
If you go back even before entering the league, Bell never fumbled in college. I have read that he didn’t fumble in high school, either. He had a fumble late in his rookie season, but then went almost two seasons’ worth of games and tons of touches without putting the ball on the ground again.
And it was a remarkable run. But is that run over now? Is he going to now become just a pedestrian ball carrier in terms of security of the football? Because his ability to hold on to the ball was one of his greatest and most underrated assets—underrated because you simply don’t think about it until somebody fumbles.
Bell’s first fumble of the regular season came in the game against the Patriots. The fumble came early in the game and was the result of him trying to bounce around a hole, enabling the defensive tackle engaging the center to disengage and swiped at the ball. The football was stripped from his grasp, but he recovered it immediately.
The bye week ensued, and then Baltimore, before the Cowboys came to town. With the Steelers facing a third and one, they ran a wide pitch from a deep set. Dallas had it read cleanly and the defense was able to pop the ball loose while he was fighting in vain to even get back to the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys nearly recovered it, but Marcus Gilbert helped prevent the safety from possessing the ball before it went out of bounds.
Then the next game, on Sunday, Bell lost the ball for the third time in a five-game span following an eight-yard reception as he was wrestling with the linebacker in coverage on a second-and-seven play. He was once again saved by the ball spilling out of bounds.
This is not the Le’Veon Bell that we have seen in terms of ball security, and he needs to go. At his current rate, he is fumbling once every 60 touches this season, which is LeGarrette Blount-type numbers.