While he may have racked up the yardage for most of the season, I think that most would acknowledge Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell got off to something of a slow start to the season, both as a runner and as a pass catcher. But often through attribution, he has continued to maintain his league lead in rushing yards and in yards from scrimmage.
With over 150 yards from scrimmage last night—117 rushing yards on 24 carries, one of his best games of the season in that regard; and five receptions for 48 yards—he added to his total yards from scrimmage. That 165 yards gives him 1849 yards from scrimmage, divided between 1222 rushing yards and 627 receiving yards. He will have an opportunity to exceed 2000 yards from scrimmage on Christmas Day.
Bell entered last night’s game against the Patriots with 302 receptions in his five-year career, in just 60 games, which already ranked as the ninth-most in franchise history. But with his five receptions, he climbed up to 307, one more reception than all-time great running back Franco Harris for the eighth-most in team history.
While he already entered the game with 300 more receiving yards—2584 to 2284—, Bell now has the most receptions by any running back in the history of the Steelers franchise. And the next target for him will be tight end Elbie Nickel, who from 1947 to 1957 caught 329 passes. Let me assure you, that was a lot for that time period.
Five of the top six pass-catchers in team history are wide receivers, with only tight end Heath Miller complicating matters. Hines Ward and Antonio Brown distance themselves from the rest, but after John Stallworth’s 537, Louis Lipps and Lynn Swann become foreseeable targets as well, with 358 and 336 receptions, respectively.
Of course, how far he can move up the franchise receptions list has an awful lot to do with how long he remains with the franchise. Bell and the Steelers failed to work out a long-term extension during the summer after he was signed to the franchise tag.
It is not a guarantee, but many believe that he will be retained for another season under an even more costly franchise tag, and the majority opinion seems to be that he will likely move on after that. But there is still so much that can happen.
What seems awfully clear is that he wants to be paid a lot of money, and he really hasn’t done anything this season that would lose him value. Through 14 games, he has a career-high 307 rushes for 1222 yards, averaging—rounding up—four yards per carry, with eight rushing touchdowns, plus 80 receptions for another 627 yards and two receiving touchdowns, averaging 7.8 yards per reception.