We have known for a good long while now that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is a true, legitimate workhorse at his position, which is something that has become a rare commodity as the years wear on and the game of football becomes increasingly focused on the forward pass.
That could be changing as the position adapts to the continued evolution of the offensive side of the ball and they put more emphasis on being a complete pass-catcher in addition to running the ball and knowing out to block, but even so, Bell has been the standout example of this.
According to Pro Football Focus, even if you consider the fact that he has missed 18 games over the past five years—that is more than an entire season’s worth of games—for a variety of reasons, he still has logged more snaps than any other running back in the NFL during that span of time.
And if you consider their workload in just the games that they have played, nobody even comes close to Bell. Over the course of his career, the All-Pro has averaged 59.1 snaps per game over 62 games played. The only other player over 50 snaps per game is Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys, and he has only been in the league for two years, logging a total of 25 games, so that is still a pretty small sample size.
The other three running backs that top the list in terms of workload per game over the course of the past five seasons are LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, and DeMarco Murray. McCoy has averaged 48.7 snaps per game over the last half-decade, while Forte has played 47.8, and Murray 45.9.
“Last season Bell played on 91.0 percent of the team’s running back snaps, totaled 87.2 percent of the team’s running back carries, and totaled 100 percent of the team’s running back targets”, PFF noted. He also logged the highest overall percentage of his team’s snaps (in games that he played) at 89.7 percent.
The next-closest to that mark was Elliott, who was on the field for 86.6 percent of the Cowboys’ snaps when he wasn’t suspended last season. Todd Gurley, the first-team All-Pro running back, was only on the field for 80.9 percent of his team’s snaps, and nobody else was really even close.
Following those three runners is a precipitous drop-off, the next on the list being Carlos Hyde, who was on the field for the San Francisco 49ers last season 71.4 percent of the time. Melvin Gordon of the Los Angeles Chargers was the only other running back in the NFL who logged 70 percent of his team’s snaps or more when he was dressed.
One of the big reasons that Bell logs so many snaps is because the Steelers trust him in all situations, including obvious passing situations. According to PFF, he was on the field for 93.5 percent of the Steelers’ third-down snaps with six or more yards to go. Only Christian McCaffrey and Chris Thompson had a higher percentage.