2017 Offseason Questions: Will Le’Veon Bell See As Many Touches In Passing Game?

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 have more or fewer receptions in 2017 than in 2016?

This is a topic that came up several times over the course of the past two days in the wake of Le’Veon Bell’s alleged reference to being entitled to pay that includes factoring in his role as the Steleers’ second-most targeted player in the passing game over the course of his career, so I would think that it is a good topic to throw to the community.

There certainly seem to be many who believe that Bell is not going to have as big of a role in the passing game in 2017 as he has in the past—some evidently believe his role will be substantially reduced in this department.

When you consider the number of wide receiver that they have at their disposal, it is not a suggestion to be dismissed out of hand. After all, Martavis Bryant will presumably be set up to play his first season of more than 11 games in his career, and he should also be his most polished that he has ever been as well.

With Eli Rogers in his second year of action and others on the depth chart that really don’t need to be named at this point, one can clearly see that they have a number of targets that they are going to have to figure out how to get involved already.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will substantially affect Bell’s role. Even if the Steelers drastically increase their usage of four-receiver packages, chances are the fifth skill player on the field will still be Bell, and he will still get his targets.

According to our charting, Bell lined up as a wide receiver over 120 times last season, which averaged out to more than 10 times a game, and I don’t think they did that just because of the injuries at wide receiver. They like using him that way.

Considering that he had 75 receptions in 12 games last season, I see no reason that he shouldn’t match that this year if he plays a full season, even taking into consideration a reduced role. Bell was on pace for 100 receptions over a full year in 2017, and I wouldn’t expect him to continue to set that pace, but I fully expect him to have close to 80 receptions and over 600 receiving yards.

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