Le’Veon Bell’s Impressive Ground Game Coming Without Benefit Of Breakaway Runs

Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell is having yet another very good season, as should be expected. In doing so, not even mentioning his strong passing numbers—adding another 57 receptions for 427 yards—he is averaging a healthy 4.6 yards per carry. What makes that statistic all the more impressive is the fact that he has gotten very little help in the form of breakaway runs.

In spite of the fact that he has carried the ball 151 times already this season, on just one of those 151 carries has he been able to pick up 20 or more yards. He had a 44-yard run in his first game back from suspension, but since then, he has failed to record a single explosive play on the ground.

In fact, he has only had three runs the entire season that have gone for at least 15 yards, adding runs of 18 and 16 yards to the 44-yard run that he had earlier. Add in carries of up to 13 yards gained, and that brings his total up to six of 151 carries, meaning that 145 of his carries have picked up 12 yards or fewer.

But he has 14 carries, in addition, that have gone between 10 and 12 yards, meaning that he is picking up better than two plays of double-digit yardage per game since his return in eight games.

And perhaps most important is the fact that he has just six runs on the season that have gone for negative yardage. He lost four yards on one carry, two yards and two others, and the three other plays lost one yard. He even has just 11 carries that picked up zero yards.

That means that he has picked up positive yardage on roughly 89 percent of all of his carries, an impressive figure, especially when you consider that he is the sort of running back that touches the ball in any and every situation, including goal line and short-yardage situations, which often result in runs of no gain when dealing with inches or feet at stake between punting or not, or scoring a touchdown.

Add in 37 carries that picked up between five and nine yards, and you start to get the picture, with 12 of those carries going for eight or nine yards. Over a third of his carries—or about 38 percent—have gone for five or more yards. Over 47 percent of his carries have gone for at least four yards.

With such a high percentage of carries going for what is generally viewed as the standard at four yards per carry, it’s no surprise to figure out why he has been able to be so successful this year, and that is not factoring the number of plays that gained fewer than four yards that were still successful in terms of converting for a first down or scoring a touchdown.

Purely statistically, what Bell has been able to do on the ground without the advantage of the breakaway runs has been quite impressive. Averaging over 4.5 yards per carry when 131 of your 151 runs have gone for single digits is a very healthy margin.

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