In a little less than two weeks from today we’ll know if Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will be a member of the team past the 2018 season,. In the meantime, however, all we can do is speculate as to what might happen by the July 16 deadline as well as how productive he’ll be this year. On Thursday, Pro Football Focus tweeted out an interesting stat related to Bell and the passes he was targeted on during the 2017 season and it deserves some deeper analyses.
According to PFF, 56 of Bell’s total pass targets in 2017 were at or behind the line of scrimmage and he led the NFL in that statistic. Not that it matters, but our own game charting shows that number being 58. That difference of two targets really is insignificant for the purpose of this analysis.
Our game charting from last season shows that Bell caught 53 passes in 2017 either at or behind the original line of scrimmage and those receptions resulted in 393 yards gained. That averages out to 7.42 yards per reception. Bell, however, did total 505 yards after the catch on those 53 receptions which averages out to 9.53 yards per catch.
Of Bell’s 32 receptions that we charted as being made past the original line of scrimmage, we have him gaining 262 yards on those plays for an average of 8.19 yards per reception. 175 of those 262 yards came after the catch, however.
Last season, there were 78 wide receivers in the NFL that caught at least 30 passes and all 78 of them averaged more yards per reception than Bell did. However, it’s worth noting that Bell’s 32 receptions that he caught past the original line of scrimmage had an average air distance of 2.78 yards and so there’s your context.
In case you’re curious, there for 14 running backs in the NFL last season that caught 50 or more passes and 8 of them had higher yards per reception than Bell’s 7.71 number. The context for that ranking probably lies in the fact that roughly 62% of all Bell’s receptions came either at or behind the original line of scrimmage.
In summation and not that you need reminding, Bell is a quality receiver out of the backfield.
#Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell saw a lot of volume in the passing game last season and a large portion of that came in the backfield. His 56 targets at or behind the line of scrimmage led the NFL in 2017. #SteelerSpotlight
— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) July 5, 2018