While Le’Veon Bell is a remarkable talent, a fact that I will never deny, one issue that I always had with his performance was that it did not frequently enough actually end up crossing the goal line. The Pittsburgh Steelers running back may average more yards per game than any player in NFL history, but he is certainly not breaking any scoring titles.
That was a fact that was first driven home in 2015 when DeAngelo Williams rushed for 11 touchdowns in his 10 starts for the games that Bell missed that season, first due to suspension and then due to injury. Bell has never scored more than 11 touchdowns in a single season, and has never had more than nine rushing touchdowns.
Now six games into the 2018 season, James Conner already has three games in which he has two rushing touchdowns, and he has rushed for over 100 yards in all three of them. that is the same number of 100-yard, two-touchdown games that Bell has had over the course of his entire career, and he has never had more than one in a single season.
Now, he has scored two or more rushing touchdowns in a game a total of six times in his NFL career. He did that twice during the 2017 season, and both of them came against the Baltimore Ravens. He rushed for 144 yards in the first one, but just 48 (on 13 attempts) in the second.
Bell barely averaged two yards per carry against the Atlanta Falcons in 2014 on a 47-yard day, but he still scored on the ground twice. In the first game of his NFL career, he scored twice but rushed for just 57 yards, albeit on a relatively modest 16 attempts.
Bell has 42 total touchdowns in 62 career starts. That works out to roughly .667 touchdowns per game. That does not stack up particularly well with the likes of his similarly elite peers such as Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley, and David Johnson. Bell opened the 2016 season without a score of any kind in the first five games, in fact.
That’s not to say that he should have been doing what Conner is currently doing, because what Conner has done is rare. Only a handful of players since the merger have recorded at least three games of 100 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in the first six games of any season.
Since 1970, only five NFL players have rushed for at least 100 yards & 2 TD in three of their team’s first six games of the season:
James Conner (2018)
Chris Johnson (2010)
Shaun Alexander (2005)
Priest Holmes (2004)
Emmitt Smith (1995) pic.twitter.com/IZXJpo3epH
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 15, 2018
But if the Steelers are actually able to score more regularly on the ground with Conner than with Bell, then that certainly raises questions about his value. So far they have, but let’s see how that continues over the course of the season. Chances are he is not going to continue to average more touchdowns than games played.