Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell faced a tremendous workload this season, recording 406 touches on the year, posting career highs both in carries and receptions with 321 and 85, respectively. He averaged 21.4 carries per game, which was the most among backs with at least 250 attempts, while adding 5.7 receptions per game on top of that. He had the 10th-most receptions in the NFL.
But, as Dave Bryan talked about yesterday, he will have had just 19 touches since December 18 the next time he takes the field. Following the New England game, Bell had just 14 carries and five receptions against the Texans. He sat against the Browns, and the Steelers have a first-round bye week.
Even though he became just the second player since 2009 to touch the ball at least 400 times during a regular season, then, it’s no wonder that the Pro Bowler says that he feels more fresh than he did a year ago.
While he did get to rest during the season finale in 2016, he averaged 31.5 touches per game over the course of the first six games of the Steelers’ seven-game winning streak that finished out the season. He carried on the torrid pace during the first two games of the postseason, averaging the exact same number of touches.
But as he admitted last year, Bell told reporters again that he was feeling the affects of a groin injury even prior to the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots. Only he did not realize the extent to which he was injured at the time.
He told reporters that he got a shot of Toradol prior to the Patriots game, though that is by no means out of the ordinary. “I felt great in warmups”, he noted, but “the first play of the game, I got hit and all of the pain came back, and it was over”.
The NFL’s use of painkillers to mask injuries is something of a controversial topic, on which even the Steelers’ own player representative, Ramon Foster, has weighed in, but as it currently stands, it is an everyday reality in the game.
“The Toradol kind of made me feel better than I actually was”, he said, which would be obvious. That is why it is used. But, he added, “I might have hurt it even worse” because of the attempt to play through the injury, which required surgery in the offseason.
But he is feeling far better heading into this postseason run, even if his partner, Antonio Brown, is not. “I don’t have any soreness”, he said. “I literally feel good, like I’m just starting to reset the season. Last year I was nowhere near feeling how I feel now”.