Dec 22, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le

Pittsburgh Steelers Final Grades: Le'Veon Bell

Final grades for the Pittsburgh Steelers continue with running back Le’Veon Bell.  Bell was drafted by the Steelers in the second round as the 48th overall pick in the draft.  Questions arose immediately about Bell’s ability to ‘survive’ physically in the NFL.  With 671 carries in just three years – 382 coming in his senior year – many wondered if the wheels would come off too soon for this young back.  Bell won the starting job but was delayed in reaching that role.  Let’s check out the numbers and give a final grade.

The Stats:


860 yards in thirteen games is not really that bad.  Were Bell to play in all 16 games, he would more than likely have broken through the 1,000 yard mark – something that doesn’t happen often in Steelers history.  Bell ranks 12th in the league for number of carries and 17th in yards among all running backs.  He ranks 17th among backs in yards per rush with over 200 carries, which is probably his weakest stat.  His 8 TD’s is tied for 11th among all backs and is second to only Eddie Lacy’s 11 TD’s among rookie rushers.  Bell added some nice receiving yards to his stat line and showed later in the season how effective he can be out in the flat or with the screen pass.  His total contributions to the offense (rushing & receiving) is near tops in the league.  His only fumble all season came against the Packers – which is very good considering some of the poor weather games he played in during 2013.  His best game came during that same game where he rushed for 124 yards – the Steelers first 100 yard rushing performance since last November of 2012.

The Year in Review:

There’s no doubt that Bell’s injury plagued training camp and start to the season hindered his maturation in his rookie season.  It took some games before he even was handed the ball over 20 times in a single game.  The complex problems with the Steelers offense kept Bell from really finding a rhythm in the running game and at times questionably shared the work load with Dwyer in key situations.  The offensive line, once again, was decimated with injury after injury.  The zone blocking scheme that was supposed to make the offense a better rushing offense was scrapped for the entire season after Week 1.  Todd Haley loved the shotgun draw in 2013 even with a line that took about nine games to finally seem cohesive enough to make some holes and keep their QB from getting killed.  To put it simply, Bell had a rough year, yet was able to produce at a respectable rate during his rookie season.  There were moments of brilliance in the way he ran.  His agility allowed him to break tackles with spins moves, jukes, and a few hurdles.  He missed few holes and stayed discipline late in the season by committing sooner instead of just bouncing runs to the outside.  Were the offensive line able to consistently block for Bell all season, Steeler Nation would have seen a very good showing from Bell and his skill set.  Starting in Week 14, his YPC was consistently over four yards.  There was certainly upswing to this guy as the season wore on.


The Pittsburgh chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America voted Bell as the recipient of the 2014 Joe Greene Great Performance award, given annually to the team’s top rookie.  Bell also beat out Franco Harris’ rookie year total yards from scrimmage with 1,259 (to Harris’ 1,235).  Franco did that in 14 games, Bell achieved his in 13.  Bell put up eight TD’s and almost broke into the top 10 in the NFL in that category.  That’s quite an achievement while being on an offense that continued its Red Zone struggles from seasons past.

Final Grade:

Bell’s stock is up up up for next season and beyond.  But, it’s rather difficult to pin down Bell’s performance for 2013.  Bell’s average per rush is the weak spot in his stat line (and maybe his case of looking downfield before catching the ball).  And, the rushing game finished 27th overall in the league.  However that is not entirely his fault, if much at all.  The offensive line’s lack of blocking early on and Toddy Haley’s persistence to run plays that had low percentages for gaining over three yards (like the shotgun draw), hindered his progress and shaded the stat line in a negative way.  Bell has skills, utilized them, and made the best of what could be done for the 2013 Steelers offense.  I questioned his drafting, but I was probably patient with him more than any other Steeler on that roster.  That patience paid off, and I think Bell had a solid season as a rookie.  There’s room for improvement in his game, and he may not be the fastest back to wear the Black & Gold, but once the O-line improves to a level above luke warm mayo, he’ll be showing not only Steeler Nation but the entire league that he’s here to make some noise among running backs.



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  • Redd Mahoney

    Speed is overrated. Quickness/vision through the hole is what the good backs have. I like Bell’s agility/power and his running style will only improve with more experience. When the O’line improves….Bell is gonna be a BEAST!

    • Craig

      Beast? Peterson is a beast. Lynch is a beast. Charles is a beast. Bettis was a beast. Bell is not nor will he be a beast. Will he be solid, dependable, and make DC’s think twice about ignoring him in a game plan? Absolutely. But he won’t be like other Steeler greats like Bettis, Harris or Parker. He’s going to sit somewhere around Frank Pollard – similar in size and style even though Pollard played FB on and off.

      • Redd Mahoney

        Did you not see that TD run against Cleveland? He showed power & agility. With another season under his belt…he will be a beast. Willie Parker was a beast and a Steeler great?….are you kidding me!? He didn’t even play on 3rd down or short yardage situations. Can you recall any tough goal line touchdowns from Parker? Maybe, but you can count them on 1 hand. Frank Pollard….really!? C’mon, now that’s just insulting the kid. I’m sure the Steelers had much higher aspirations when they drafted him. Bell will be the next great Steeler back…watch and see.

        • Craig

          You’re right. I will wait and see – unlike you who have crowned him the greatest Steeler back of all time after his rookie season. Pollard is not an insult to the kid. It’s an honest comparison to size, style, and effort – all good things. So it’s not an insult. I’m done with the debate Redd because there will never be any convincing of you to at least hold your britches and ‘wait and see’ before making him the greatest all time.

          • Dom DiTolla

            You know what the shame of it all is, Bell’s talent is not being properly maximized because he has a complete and total dullard as an offensive coordinator. If Haley really wanted to highlight Bell’s skills, he’d spread the field with 3 & 4 WR sets instead of 2 & 3 TE’s with only one of which being a pass-catching threat.

            Spreading the defense with a QB of Roethlisberger’s caliber and weapons at WR like his would automatically take defenders out of the box, and Bell would have
            more room to run.

            Bell’s at his best when he can gather steam and get to the second level, and the extra guys needed to defend the pass would allow him to shine. Running him out of jumbo formations and confining him in a phone-booth, between the 20s, is when he struggles and so does the O-Line as a whole. The box is stacked, it’s tougher for a slower back to get to the second level or wide, and the threat of a pass is non-existent.

            Plus, it wouldn’t hurt to split Bell out wide more often, or at least in the slot, if teams want to dedicate too many safeties and linebackers onto the field to stack the box as well.

            Comparison-wise, I’d say he’s a nice mix of Barry Foster and John L. Williams. Runs well and with power like Foster, but catches like Williams. Solid combo in my opinion. Just wish Haley would use him in a bit different fashion.

          • Redd Mahoney

            Nice assessment. I agree with everything you said. Hopefully next season, Haley will utilize his mismatches with linebackers more in the passing game too. This could help make the offense potentially more red zone efficient and less predictable for defenses.

          • Craig

            Nice assessment – didn’t he just say BARRY FOSTER?!?! Didn’t you just criticize me for who I use for comparisons, and then chide me more by undermining Foster? Come on, man. ;)

          • Redd Mahoney

            Why so much heat friend? I thought that you were “done with the debate” about Bell. SMH…So easy :)

          • Dom DiTolla

            Exactly. My biggest reason for this type of change is that Bell’s lack of speed is not necessarily a disadvantage from a strategic standpoint if there are only five to six in the box instead of seven to eight all clumped together facing an inexperienced O-Line and multiple tight ends. Plus smaller defenders (nickel LBs and extra DBs) gives the bigger back more opportunities to hit the second level and shed tacklers.

            It would allow for more guys to be eligible in pass packages, and Bell would still be in the game to help pass block if they needed him to do so. Oddly enough, pass blocking was actually the area of Bell’s game I was most impressed with last season more than anything else.

            Scheming around his deficiencies and highlighting his skill-set is what Haley should be doing.

          • Redd Mahoney

            No sir, you wait and see before you put a label on Bell’s career after only one season. I have no problem with the running style comparison to Pollard, but to imply that Bell won’t have a career any better than Pollard after only one season is just jumping the gun. Also, I never said that he was “the greatest of all time”, just as long as he stays healthy he’ll be a beast(dependable, play every down) of a back for the Steelers. And finally, I’ll be sure and listen to you who deems that Willie Parker as an all time Steeler great. C’mon Craig….Really!? Why don’t you just throw in Barry “Bananas” Foster too? :)

          • Craig

            Get off the crazy train Redd and actually READ what is written – especially what YOU write and then what you come after me about. You criticize me about putting a label prematurely on Bell’s career. When? I said he’s not a beast. I didn’t say “Bell will be the next great Steeler back” like you did – a label. By comparing him to someone like Pollard is not labeling his career. Do you honestly dislike Pollard that much that you keep going back to him as it being an insult to Bell?
            Next – ‘beast’ does not = dependable play every down. Far from it. That’s why I used names such as Peterson and Lynch when talking about beast. Those guys are something special…. BEASTS. More than just dependable, every down backs. They are game changers. MVP’s of the league good. Bell is not in that league. Sorry. That’s not a premature label. That’s just what it is. Maybe he’ll come close. But I don’t see it happening. That’s an assessment. Not a label.

            Lastly, you’re right, Parker is not an all time great because he didn’t have a chance to play long enough. Given that chance in a Steeler uniform he would have. He was an IMPACT player and was very dangerous. Had he stayed healthy after carrying the ball an absurd amount of times he would have been very good for years. That injury changed everything.

            Again, LISTEN to what I’m saying. Bell is a very good running back. I like him and think he will be very valuable to this team. I just don’t think he will put up Bettis like numbers (or AP or Lynch for that matter) for the Steelers. I wonder what you see when you watch games because you seem to pick up a few things about someone and ride that horse until it is six feet under…. And BTW, Foster – not a great Steeler, but he was still a good running back. 4.3 YPC and 24 TD’s in his last three season’s as a Steeler when he was the primary back. Those are decent numbers. You just make him seem bad because he retired after failing a physical the following year in Carolina. Or do you not like him because he didn’t catch that 4th down pass at the end of the AFC Championship?