With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and there soon being little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first eight games with a 6-2 record, tied for the best in the AFC along with the Patriots and the Chiefs, the latter of whom they have already beaten.
The offense has not lived up to its billing for the most part this year, though the running game has had its moments. Defensively, the sacks have come, and the secondary has improved, but there will always be things to work on.
Player: Le’Veon Bell, RB
I think it’s rather something that Le’Veon Bell actually got off to a slow start to the 2017 regular season, and yet is just three yards outside of first place in terms of rushing yardage. Now, to be fair, they do work him like a dog. He is averaging 24.2 rushing attempts per game, already with 194 on the season.
Only four other players are averaging at least 20 rushing attempts per game, while only Ezekiel Elliot is within even two carries per game. And he actually averages the fourth-most yards per game among those with a sizable number of rushing attempts.
Bell is currently averaging under four yards per carry, which tends to be viewed as the benchmark number. At least four yards per carry is respectable. He averaged nearly five yards per carry in each of the past two seasons, and 4.7 yards per carry the year before, so this is a fairly notable decline.
His performance on Sunday as actually his least efficient of the season, taking 25 rushing attempts to accumulate 76 yards on the ground, which is just a hair over three yards per carry.
But he has also had three big rushing games in the past five weeks, all in wins, totaling 144 over the Ravens, 179 over the Chiefs, and 134 over the Bengals. Though the win over the Chiefs is the only game in which he has averaged over 4.1 yards per attempt.
As a receiver, he has also struggled with efficiency, averaging only 6.3 yards per attempt. He got a boost following a big 42-yard reception two weeks ago, but overall has not been the factor he has been in the past, on pace for just 438 receiving yards.
He has also fumbled twice this season, losing one just on the cusp of the red zone against the Lions on Sunday.
On the other hand, he is on pace for 10 rushing touchdowns, which would be a new career-high, his previous best being eight, though his highest touchdown total in a season is actually 11 including receiving scores.