Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Le'Veon Bell Nearing Team Record Held By John L. Williams


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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Tags: Franco Harris John L. Williams Le'Veon Bell Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Redd Mahoney

    He can only get better as a runner. Hopefully there will be a consistent/healthy offensive line in front of him for a full 16 games next season. Maybe he can become a Matt Forte kind of back. You can tell that Ben trusts him to make plays. What do you think about his upside? Do you agree with Tomlin about taking Bell over Lacy being a no brainer?

    • Dom DiTolla

      Yeah, he can only get better as a runner because it’s hard to do worse than a 3.3 ypc average.

      Bell lacks the explosiveness and agility to consistently threaten opposing defenses at the second level, particularly on long-developing run plays. Despite his fantastic versatility as a pass-catcher and a run-blocker, he will never be a Matt Forte-type because he will never strike fear into opposing defenses toting the rock on the ground.

      Bell’s upside is that he can be a solid member of a rotation of backs, but his lack of speed makes adding another back or two to the mix key.

      I will always maintain that taking a running back in round two of last April’s draft was completely and totally moronic. The Steelers passed up on a number of talented players at far greater positions of need to take Bell, a player at a far more replaceable position.

      I despised the decision then, and will likely not change my mind since the Steelers passed on guys like Sio Moore, Jamie Collins, Jon Bostic, Keenan Allen, Aaron Dobson, Robert Alford, Leon McFadden, etc..

      • Redd Mahoney

        Once again, speed is overrated. Bettis was no speed demon and yet had a nice career. When the play of the O’ line improves….Bell’s 3.3 ypc should improve as well.

        • Dom DiTolla

          Bettis lacked long-speed, but his feet were quicker than Bell’s, he was a much more decisive runner and had the power and strength to make things happen when he got to the second-level.

          I guarantee that we will remember Bell more for the players the team passed on in Round 2 than what he does on the field. Which is a shame too, especially since guys like Eddie Lacy, Keenan Allen, Sio Moore, etc. look like they will have far more productive careers.

          • Redd Mahoney

            Well, I’m willing to bet that Bell has a longer career than Lacy. Lacy takes on far too many hits like Earl Campbell did. That running style can only last so long. And who’s to say that Keenan Allen would be seeing any more playing time in his rookie season than Markus Wheaton?

          • Dom DiTolla

            Bettis played for 13 years so I think Lacy will be okay with his physical running style, plus Green Bay will run the ball fewer times once Rodgers gets back into the lineup. Lacy will completely dominate against five and six man fronts when the Packers run the ball, and I’m sure that Mike McCarthy will lighten his load with James Starks and other backs moving forward.

            I also didn’t see Lacy missing the entirety of the preseason or the first three games of the regular season with injuries. What running back did that happen to again? Lol.

            Keenan Allen is far more talented than Markus Wheaton and Ken Whisenhunt is intelligent enough to put his most explosive and best playmakers on the field instead of letting them rot on the bench so ineffective tight ends & fullbacks like Matt Spaeth, David Palmer and Will Johnson can get reps at their expense.

            The fact that the Steelers passed on him for a guy at a replaceable position like running back with the 48th overall pick was a total and complete waste. I guess that we have Tomlin and Haley to thank for that piece of brilliance.

            I honestly would have passed on both backs for someone like Andre Ellington, who I was really high on, while filling the need for an inside linebacker, safety or wide receiver earlier. Of course, it is what it is, and the Steelers will be stuck with Bell.

          • Redd Mahoney

            So, do you still think that Bell will be nothing more than just a rotation back in the future? Well, just because Bell doesn’t dazzle your eye balls with 80 yard TD runs, doesn’t mean that he can’t be a feature back. Guys like Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch and Ray Rice aren’t any blazers either and they’ve been bonafide feature backs for years. Oh BTW, since you had mentioned Bell’s injury before, I found it ironic that with the game on the line, Bell scored the game winning touchdown while Lacey was on the sidelines….with a dare I say…injury? HeHe

          • Dom DiTolla

            Green Bay has the 27th ranked rushing defense and were missing Johnny Jolly and Clay Matthews. Wake me up when he performs against a real rushing defense.

          • Redd Mahoney

            HaHa, It would just KILL you to give Bell any props. You asked for a good rushing game from Bell( more than 3.3 ypc) and you got one. Happy Holidays :)

          • Dom DiTolla

            It’d be nice if he did this against the likes of Oakland and in games where the Steelers could have used a competent rushing attack. One meaningless December game against a piss-poor rush defense means little.

            Shame that he’ll never be as valuable or make as big of an impact as Keenan Allen or any of the other players the team carelessly passed up to take him at #48 overall. Happy Holidays to you as well, I hope you like watching other teams during postseason play and Bell racking up 0 rushing yards during those games.

          • Redd Mahoney

            Why don’t you just blame Bell for Pryor’s 99 yard TD and Sushi’s 2 missed field goals as well. That game was a total TEAM debacle.

            My friend, in the N.F. L …no games are “meaningless”, What I saw on Sunday was a Steelers team that was fighting till the very end. If they would have deemed that game “meaningless” and quit and gotten blown out….you would have just KILLED them! Also, if Bell would’ve failed to get at least 90-100 yards rushing against that 27th ranked defense ….Oh, I’m sure you wouldn’t have written about that failure at all….NOT!

            Wow, you really are Nostradamus, predicting the N.F.L future of the Steelers Rookie of the Year. Keenan Allen will be watching the playoffs with us, so no worries.

            MERRY XMAS! :)

          • Dom DiTolla

            13 carries for 24 yards. Smashing success against the Raiders.

            Personally, I could’ve cared less if they won or lost the game. They blew their chance to make the postseason during their 2-6 start.

            Also, guys like Adrian Cooper, Jon Witman, Patrick Bailey, Troy Edwards, Anthony Henton and Daniel Sepulveda were named the team’s rookie of the year. So maybe you shouldn’t be getting ahead of yourself when it comes to Bell.

            You sure like that ‘caps lock’ button, don’t you?

          • Redd Mahoney

            You, give up the chance to rip the Steelers!?….Say it aint so!

            Leave it to you to render a rookie of the year award a dubious honor.
            Seems like your colleagues don’t agree with your underwhelming evaluation on Bell being a no skill set having career rotation back.

            I sure do like that ‘caps lock’ button…just as much as you like being a “Negative Nancy”. HeHe

          • Dom DiTolla

            Everybody has a difference of opinions here at NPC, I just am willing to wait before I crown him the running game’s savior after only 13 regular season games.

            Enjoy watching Bell log some postseason carries though…oh wait…

          • Redd Mahoney

            Everything you said in criticism of Bell I must say is fair, but where does the inconsitent play of the offensive line come to play in your assessment of him?

          • Dom DiTolla

            I think Bell’s a talented back and has improved in recent weeks, but
            I am not giving him a free pass due to the makeshift-ness of the

            Although it comes into play with me, remember that Rashard Mendenhall achieved large measures of success (two 1K+ seasons and one 900+ campaign) running behind far inferior offensive lines than the ones the team has now. Willie Parker almost led the NFL in rushing 2007 with a line which was extremely pedestrian and flawed. Hell, even Mewelde Moore rushed for 588 yards and 4.2 ypc back in 2008 when they fielded arguably the worst offensive line of any championship team.

            Have I set the bar high for my expectations of Bell? Yes. Yet if an extremely flawed team is going to invest the 48th overall pick in the draft on a replaceable position like running back, then free passes are not exactly an option.

          • Redd Mahoney

            This season the Steelers probably started their youngest offensive line in decades.Those Steelers teams that your talking about were far more seasoned along the offensive line than this years team and they also had Hines Ward’s talents as a blocker as well as a healthy Heath Miller to start the season. I’m not making excuses….just say’n.

          • Dom DiTolla

            Sounds like a lot of excuse making to me. Lol.

            I guess the names Chris Kemoeatu, Darnell Stapleton, Sean Mahan, Justin Hartwig, (as well as Willie Colon playing out of position at right tackle) etc. mean nothing in terms of their underwhelming play. Those lines from ‘07-’09 were just as makeshift if not more than the one now.

            I’d take David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Fernando Velasco and Kelvin Beachum over any of those jokers. Then again, you can frame Bell’s 3.4 ypc any way you want to.

          • Redd Mahoney

            Did you catch the agility/power on Bell’s touchdown run?

            You say that he has no agility? Ha!

          • Dominic Di Tolla

            I’ll admit that it was a nice run. He’s played better down the stretch. Still hope they can find someone to share the load with him. Runs very physical and upright at 6’1″.

          • Dom DiTolla

            I’ll admit that it was a nice run. He’s played better down the stretch.
            Still hope they can find someone to share the load with him. Runs very
            physical and upright at 6’1″ so it would be nice to keep him fresh.