I knew that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has caught a lot of passes in his career. I guess I just didn’t realize how many passes he catches. According to team media manager Dom Rinelli, he has an excellent chance of breaking a team record currently held by Antonio Brown on Sunday.
The Steelers’ all-time record for the most receptions in a player’s first 50 games is owned by Brown, with 236 catches in that span. Sunday will be the 50th game of Bell’s career, and he will enter the day sitting at 234 career receptions.
Le’Veon Bell (@L_Bell26) has 234 catches in his first 49 games#Steelers record for most catches in 1st 50 games:
Antonio Brown (@AB84) 236
— Dom Rinelli (@drinelli) September 21, 2017
Basic math tells us that he will need to record just three receptions against the Bears in order to surpass Brown for the most ever in a player’s first 50 career games with the Steelers. Of course, this stat requires a bit of contextualizing, but it is still impressive in any setting.
That figure means that the running back has been averaging nearly 4.8 receptions per game for the duration of his career, which is even more than Marshall Faulk averaged in his 176-game career, though he did average 4.7 receptions per game during his 99 games with the Rams. During his final season in Indianapolis and his peak years in St. Louis, though, he averaged at last 5.4 receptions per game for five consecutive seasons.
But we might as well compare this with some other notable running backs as well. Larry Centers had the most receptions by a running back ever with 827. He did that over 198 games, though, averaging 4.2 receptions per game. He did beat the average five times. He had 200 receptions combined over a two-year span
How about LaDainian Tomlinson? He has 624 receptions in his career, but averaged just 3.7 receptions per game. He did top 4.8 in two seasons, including a 100-reception year. Tiki Barber averaged 3.8 receptions in his career, only topping 4.8 receptions in one season when he caught 72 passes in 14 games.
Our last hope has got to be Matt Forte, who had over 100 receptions in one season. But no, he has averaged 3.9 receptions per game. Even ignoring his Jets years, he averaged 4.1 receptions per game with the Bears. His 102-reception season was the only time he averaged 4.8 receptions or more per game in a year.
So yeah, I suppose Bell is in good company. If you can think of another running back who could potentially challenge his position at the top in terms of receptions per game, drop the name.
Bell’s productivity so far largely comes from his two most healthy seasons in 2014 and 2016. In the former, over 16 games, he caught 83 passes, averaging 5.2 receptions per game. Last year, in only 12 games, he put up 75 receptions, averaging 6.3 per game.
This year, he only has seven receptions through two games, but it shouldn’t be long before he is more involved. He hasn’t been very successful on his chances yet, averaging just 2.7 yards per catch.