The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Will Le’Veon Bell retire as the best running back in Steelers history?
We still have a lot of hours to kill between now and training camp, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to begin posing some more long-distance questions, so to speak. Today I wanted to pose this long-view question: by the time Le’Veon Bell retires or moves on to another team, will he be regarded as the best running back the franchise has ever had?
Four years into his career, Bell has compiled 4045 rushing yards on 908 attempts, averaging 4.5 yards per carry with 26 rushing touchdowns. A highly significant component of his overall game, he also has 227 receptions for 2005 yards, averaging 8.8 yards per reception, with another five touchdowns.
It should be noted that his production has come in somewhat truncated form. He missed the first three games of his career due to a foot injury, and then since has missed five due to suspension and another eight due to a significant knee injury. He was also rested for one meaningless game.
He has produced over 6000 career yards in 47 games, averaging to date 128.7 yards per game, and in 12 games last year he posted the third-highest yards per game productivity over a single season. I believe I saw that his career average is the highest of all time through the first four seasons of a player’s career.
But no matter what he has accomplished, he could hardly have picked a worse team to be on in regards to stiff competition, as the Steelers have a pair of running backs in the Hall of Fame—actually three, including John Henry Johnson.
But you know this discussion is going to be centered around just two names in particular: Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis. Bell has already done some things that neither of them have ever accomplished, but he also has plenty left to achieve on his own. Harris rushed for over 12,000 yards with 100 combined touchdowns, while Bettis had over 13,000 yards and 94 total touchdowns. That’s a lot of ground to make up, so Bell will have to show longevity.