Devil’s Advocate: Running Bell’s Wheels Off

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Should the Steelers run Le’Veon Bell’s wheels off this season?

Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin was pretty famous for saying that he was going to run running back Willie Parker until the wheels fell off, and he has retained that sort of reputation since, largely because Parker’s wheels pretty much did fall off under a heavy workload, and a number of injuries.

He has certainly run his running backs hard since then every now and then, though I don’t believe any of them lost their wheels. Still, one would be hard-pressed to imagine Le’Veon Bell being given a bigger workload than he saw toward the end of last season, even if it didn’t start out that way.

So it is in that spirit that I post today’s proposition, and whether or not it would be a net benefit. Ultimately, I think the answer is, it depends, but there are broader arguments to make.


The Steelers have nothing in guarantees from Bell beyond the 2017 season—and really not even that yet. They also have nothing in guarantees from Ben Roethlisberger beyond this season either, so whatever workload they need to give Bell that will further their quest for a Super Bowl title during this season will be justified.


But the Steelers ran him so intently at the end of last season because of the fact that they were short-handed at wide receiver a year ago, and that will not be the case this year. It would make the most sense to preserve Bell as much as possible this year to ensure that they have him healthy for the postseason.

That had been the biggest issue over the course of the past three years, and they have lost three of four postseason games that Bell either did not play in or did not finish in that span. The key is for him to be healthy during that run, and that favors preservation.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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