Another day, another Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro featured on Pro Football Focus’ list of the top 50 players in the NFL for the 2018 season. On Tuesday, the site revealed right guard David DeCastro, who checked in at number 40 on the list. Running back Le’Veon Bell cracked the top 25 yesterday, checking in at number 24.
“Still angling for that long-term contract, Bell remains one of the biggest matchup weapons in the game”, Sam Monson writes of the sixth-year veteran. “A unique ball carrier who can influence the leverage of defenders and help to generate his own running lanes, Bell is also one of the best receiving backs in football and has seen 394 targets come his way over his career, including 112 in 2017”.
And it probably helps to remember that those 394 targets have come in fewer than four seasons’ worth of games. He missed 10 games alone in 2015, and has missed eight other games in total during the regular season, though two have come in the season finale in each of the past two years for rest.
Monson added that Bell “has broken 100 tackles over the past two seasons on the ground and another 35 as a receiver, becoming a vital part of the Steelers’ high-octane offense”. He has over that span, in 27 games, rushed for 2559 yards on 582 carries and added an additional 1271 receiving yards on 160 receptions. He has 16 rushing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns in that timeframe.
As he hinted at at the top of his description for the running back, Bell is still looking to work out a long-term contract with the Steelers, and is currently unsigned. He has been extended the franchise tag for the second year in a row, but he doesn’t appear to have any intention of signing it until the last moment before the regular season starts.
Bell is the only running back that has been named on PFF’s list so far, from number 50 through 21. I’m guessing that Todd Gurley and perhaps Ezekiel Elliott might crack the top 20, the former much more likely than the latter, I think.
Many feel that the Steelers running back had a ‘down’ year in 2017 since he only averaged four yards per carry and had few explosive plays. He rushed for 1291 yards, but it took him 321 carries, the most in the league. He did have a career-high nine rushing touchdowns, and his 11 total touchdowns tied the most he’s had in a single season.
To date, Bell is averaging more yards from scrimmage than any other player in the history of the NFL. He has recorded 7996 yards from scrimmage over the course of the 62 games that he has played through his first five seasons, which works out to 129 yards per game.