The Pittsburgh Steelers have been back at practice for a couple of days now following the conclusion of the preseason, which means that running back Le’Veon Bell has been back at practice for a couple of days after sitting out the entire preseason and officially signing his franchise tender on Monday.
The All-Pro told reporters on Monday following his first practice back since prior to the AFC Championship game last season that he was a bit winded, or something to that effect, but he told Aditi Kinkhabwala following his first padded practice yesterday that things went much better this time around.
The NFL Network reporter Tweeted yesterday that “Bell said today felt better than Monday, that he was more accustomed to [the] pace” of practice. She went on to write that the running back “reiterated” there would be “no need to go easy” on him regarding the number of times that he sees the ball on Sunday.
Le’Veon Bell said today felt better than Monday, that he was more accustomed to pace. Reiterated no need to go easy w/ his touches Sunday
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) September 6, 2017
When it comes to talking about Bell and playing time, however, it does bear keeping in mind that we are not discussing the average running back, because the simple reality is that nobody spends more time on the field when healthy than he does, and it’s really not even close.
As made abundantly clear by an illustrative graphic Tweeted by Pro Football Focus, Bell easily outpaces everybody else in terms of percentage of snaps played when dressed. He played 90.4 percent of the snaps in the games for which he dressed last season.
Once a game starts, these bell cows rarely come off the field pic.twitter.com/zJH3UDGOXO
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 4, 2017
The next-closest was Cardinals running back David Johnson, who is now currently the only employed NFL player with that name, who was on the field for 83.7 percent of his team’s offensive snaps in the games that he played, nearly a seven-percent difference from Bell. Demarco Murray of the Titans was third with 80.7 percent of snaps played.
When we are talking about Bell, additionally, we are talking about a player who does virtually everything on the field that a running back could possibly do under normal circumstances. On passing snaps, for example, while he lined up in the backfield 424 times, he also lined up along the line of scrimmage 123 times, nearly divided evenly between in the slot and on the outside.
The fifth-year running back is truly a workhorse like none other—and wants to be paid like it—when he is on the field, so it would not be far-fetched to imagine that he might need to ease his way up to playing 90 percent of the snaps per game, but we will see how things surface on Sunday. It won’t be long now before we see Bell back on the field for the Steelers.