On Sunday night, Le’Veon Bell became only the third rookie running back in franchise history to rack up over 1,000 total yards from scrimmage during their first professional season.
While Franco Harris (1,055 yards) and Bam Morris (836 yards) did most of their damage on the ground during their rookie campaigns, Bell has been just as dangerous running the ball (646 yards) as he has been catching (383 yards) it this fall.
Although I have not been particularly impressed with Bell’s running ability, his pass catching skills have been nothing short of top notch for a player at his position. In fact, the former Michigan State Spartan (43 receptions) is nearing the franchise mark for receptions in a single-season by a running back.
Only eight receptions away from the record-holder John L. Williams (51 in 1994), Bell could very well snag eight passes during Pittsburgh’s final two games.
I must add that Bell is in some pretty good company with Williams as well. The former Florida Gator was one of the most underrated pass-catching fullbacks in league history, and was a key piece of the team’s offense during the 1994 and 1995 AFC Championship winning seasons.
Even if the rookie is unable to tie or break Williams’ mark this season, the record of 51 will be in danger of being broken for as long as Bell is in town.
If Bell can suit up for 16 regular season games next fall, then I cannot see a scenario in which he racks up less than 55 receptions. With the offensive line likely still congealing, the Steelers will likely be a heavy-screen team once again in 2013 regardless of who is calling the plays as the offensive coordinator.
A screen-heavy scheme coupled with Bell’s soft hands could mean a heavy workload for the starting running back, and I will be interested to see how productive he can be over the course of an entire regular season.
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