Have the Pittsburgh Steelers missed running back Le’Veon Bell any through the team’s first five games of the 2018 regular season? If you’ve watched every offensive play of every game so far this season I’m willing to bet you would answer no to that question. As far as key rushing and deceiving statistics go, the Steelers aren’t missing Bell one bit through the first five games of the 2018 season as backup running back James Conner has done a fine job of filling in for him.
If you were to look at Conner’s raw stats from the first five games of this season and compare them to those of Bell’s through the first five games of the 2017 season, a few things will instantly pop out at you. First, Conner already has compiled 581 total yards from scrimmage and 5 touchdowns through five games while Bell registered 515 and 3 touchdowns through the first five games of the 2017 regular season. Conner also has 23 less touches than Bell had at this same time a year ago and thus his average yards gained per rush and reception are the higher of the two players when compared.
Conner is really blowing Bell out of the water to start the season when it comes to the yards he’s averaging per reception. As a matter of fact, Conner’s average yard per reception stat of 10.86 is currently the second-best in the NFL behind only Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley when compared to all running backs in the NFL with 15 or more receptions. That’s quite impressive.
Average yards per touch aside, when you dig deeper into play success rates of Conner in 2018 and Bell in 2017 through the Steelers first five regular season games of the season you’ll notice that that the former is 7.4% better than the latter.
When it comes to big gains of 10 yards or longer and 20 yards or longer, Conner’s once again way ahead of where Bell was at this same time last season. In fact, Bell only had one explosive play of 20 yards or longer in the books at this same point last season while Conner already has 6.
When comparing 2017 Bell to 2018 Conner in plays that resulted in no yardage gained through five regular season games, the two players are virtually even from a percentage standpoint. To Bell’s credit, however, he had just one fumble through five games last season whereas Conner has two through five games this season. Bell’s lone fumble through five games played last season went out of bounds and while Conner had one of his do the same this past Sunday, his other one in the opener against the Cleveland Browns was recovered by the defense and turned out to be a big play in that game.
Bell obviously went on to have a great 2017 season and it started with him registering 191 total yards from scrimmage in the Steelers Week 6 road win over the Kansas City Chiefs. He also added another 192 total yards from scrimmage in the following game in the Steelers Week 7 home win over the Cincinatti Bengals. That was almost a near unbelievable 400 total yards in two games.
The Steelers next two games are against the Bengals and Browns with a bye sandwiched in the middle of the two. Sunday’s road game against the Bengals is obviously a big one for the Steelers as a win could put them right back in contention for the AFC North title.
In their first five games this season the Bengals defense has allowed opposing running backs to amass nearly 800 total yards from scrimmage on 141 total touches. In short, Conner should be expected to have yet another nice all-purpose game on Sunday in Cincinnati as long as the team doesn’t get down big on the scoreboard like they have already done a few times this season.
Conner’s start to the 2018 season has certainly been a good one and now it’s time to see if he can stay ahead of Bell’s 2017 pace in Week 6. Remember, Bell might return to the team during the bye week and if he indeed does, Sunday might be the last time this season we see Conner get the lion’s share of the running back work the remainder of the season.
|PLAYER||James Conner||Le’Veon Bell|