The talk over Le’Veon Bell has been focused on his absence and contract situation. But regardless of what happens, we know Bell will be on the field for Week One against the Cleveland Browns. There’s no back in the league who plays more often than Bell and it’s up to the team to figure out how much that trend should continue.
“We’ll have all those discussions,” Todd Haley told reporters after yesterday’s practice. “His injuries have been kind of oddball type things. Even the [groin]. He’s a guy who gets stronger every game. He doesn’t want to come out of the game. Again, he’s a year older and we have to make sure we have to cover all that.”
Per PFF, Bell played 90% of snaps in games he played, by far the highest share of any back.
These were the true featured backs in 2016 pic.twitter.com/3FZOA7hNRz
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 10, 2017
He’s seven points ahead of David Johnson and ten ahead of the third place back, DeMarco Murray. That’s been the dilemma for the team. There’s no question the Steelers’ offense is better with him on the field but it’s easy to overwork a back. Most of them are managed as committees and situational players, short yardage, third down, emerge. The Steelers’ situation is unique. Bell is all of those things.
Perhaps part of the discussion will be dependent on James Conner’s development. A hamstring injury has hindered him during the spring but if he bounces back and earns the confidence of the coaching staff, they’ll in turn feel better about occasionally giving Bell a spell.
If he doesn’t, it may end up being 2015 all over with Bell playing virtually every single snap.
As Haley said, those conclusions are far from happening. Similar to the Cam Heyward/Stephon Tuitt talks, it’s probably for the best if there’s a small reduction in snaps.