All of the optimism that rookie Le’Veon Bell could return to the lineup for Pittsburgh next Monday seems to have faded according to multiple reports. In fact, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com tweeted that the running back had only been “jogging” and not “cutting” last Sunday afternoon.
Despite his injured foot, Bell is still scheduled to return from his injured foot at some point during the 2013 regular season. With his eventual return in mind, many have speculated how much the rookie can kick-start the team’s anemic ground game.
As positive as I want to be regarding the former Michigan State Spartan’s healthy return, I cannot see a scenario in which a healthy Bell will actually help the Steelers at all this fall. Of course this has less to do with his talent as a running back, and more to do with the fact that his team’s offensive line is an absolute “dumpster fire.”
After Pittsburgh’s rushing offense ranked 26th in total rushing yards and 28th in yards per carry in 2012, there was really nowhere for the team’s ground game to go but “up” this fall. Sadly for the Steelers, their offensive line not only got weaker last weekend, they played nothing short of “awful” as a unit.
Three-time Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey was lost to a knee injury in the middle of the first quarter, and the unit looked dreadful throughout the rest of the game. The Steelers finished with a total of 32 yards on 15 carries against the Tennessee Titans, and the team’s leading rusher Isaac Redman gained only nine yards on eight attempts.
As most of us unfortunately witnessed, Pittsburgh’s offensive line was pushed around constantly that afternoon. They almost never dominated at the point of attack, and they were unable to create appropriate sized holes and running lanes for Redman and LaRod Stephens-Howling to burst though throughout the game.
Although Bell is the most talented running back on Pittsburgh’s roster at the moment, he does not possess the type of “shake and bake” moves to create running lanes all by himself. Moreover, how can any ball-carrier create positive yards if their offensive line is unable to create space and the back cannot gain a “head of steam” going towards the line of scrimmage?
As much as I want to see Bell succeed and prove Pittsburgh’s brass correct for taking him with the 48th overall pick in last April’s draft, his return will ultimately mean little to nothing if Pittsburgh’s offensive line cannot improve over the coming weeks.
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