In case you needed one last thing to really impress you about how great Le’Veon Bell was for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016, taking into great consideration his dynamism as both a runner and a pass catcher, it has recently been shared around the interwebs, including by the team’s own Twitter feed, that he became the first player in NFL history to average 100 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards in the same season.
In 2016, Le’Veon Bell became the 1st player in NFL history to average at least 100 rushing & 50 receiving yards per game in a season. pic.twitter.com/6u6wuV9ZG9
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 6, 2017
That shouldn’t be too great of a surprise, of course, considering that there have only been a small handful of players in the history of the league who have averaged at least 150 total yards per game over the course of the a full season. Bell averaged 157 yards per game in 2016, and that was the third-highest mark ever, to give some perspective as to just how uncommon that achievement is.
In just 12 games—after serving a three-game suspension and then sitting out the regular-season finale, of course—Bell totaled 1884 yards, which works out very neatly to exactly 157 yards per game. 1268 of those yards came on the ground on 261 carries, averaging 105.7 rushing yards per game. He added 616 receiving yards on 75 receptions, averaging 51.3 receiving yards per game.
Nobody has put up both numbers in that vein in the same season, ever, in the history of the NFL. To dominate as a runner and also maintain such a consistent presence in the passing game in this fashion was not only rare, but, in fact, unique.
Let’s compare Bell’s 2016 season to some of the other great yardage seasons in NFL history. By the way, his 1884 yards ranks as the 95th-most in a single season of all time. Prorated over a full season, he would have passed Chris Johnson’s single-season yards from scrimmage record of over 2500 yards.
Speaking of Johnson, he rushed for 2006 yards in 16 games, averaging 125.4 rushing yards per game. He added 503 receiving yards, which worked out to only about 31.4 receiving yards per game. in 1999, Marshall Faulk had the rare 1000-1000 season as a rusher and receiver, but with 1381 rushing yards in 16 games, he averaged 86.3 rushing yards per game.
LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for over 1600 yards in 2003, but had 725 receiving yards, which came pretty close at 45.3 receiving yards per game. Barry Sanders never came all that close to averaging 50 receiving yards per game in a season, even though he managed to average at least 100 rushing yards per game four times.
In case you were wondering, second-year running back David Johnson picked up 879 receiving yards this year, averaging almost 55 receiving yards per game, but he came up short in averaging a bit over 77 rushing yards per game. Ezekiel Elliott averaged over 100 rushing yards per game, but he only gained 363 receiving yards—fewer than 25 per game. He only had 40 or more receiving yards in a game twice—52 once, and 95 against the Steelers.