Pittsburgh Steelers: Running Le’Veon Bell Too Much?
The hot topic of debate this week in the Steel City is whether or not the Steelers should be worried about the number of carries taken and projected by second-year running back Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers cut Bell’s backup, LeGarrette Blount, following his walk-out on the team during the Monday Night Football game against the Tennessee Titans. Behind Bell the Steelers are tissue paper thin at the running back position and his snap counts are on the rise. Should the Steelers be worried about burning Bell out too much for the remainder of this season?
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Le’Veon Bell has established himself as one of the premier running backs in the NFL. His rushing abilities combined with his pass catching abilities make him an absolute asset in this Pittsburgh Steelers offense. The Steelers drafted Bell particularly because of his size, style, and the fact that he carried the ball the majority of the season his last year at Michigan State. They knew that he could be a workhorse, capable of being an every down back. However, during last year’s offseason, the Steelers signed LeGarrette Blount in free agency to back Bell up, presumably to avoid running Bell “until the wheels fall off” like Mike Tomlin once said about Willie Parker.
They drafted Dri Archer; a running back out of Kent State, in the third round to do God knows what because he hasn’t done much of anything yet, even before the release of Blount. Now, with a playoff push in the mindset, Bell is projected to hit at least 300 carries for the season and that’s not even counting his receptions or when he’s in the play to pick up blitzes. That could do a lot of damage to a player who slimmed down from his rookie season but still lowers his shoulders and delivers blows as if he’s a heavier back. Sometimes, when a rushing back carries the ball that much in one season, they’re never the same for the remainder of their careers. If they improve, or keep that pace up, they’re more likely HOF-type talent. It’s too early to put Bell in the Hall just yet, but I don’t think anyone in Steeler Nation would consider him a flash-in-the-pan type talent at this point.
What the Steelers have to do in the mean time for the remainder of the season is find that balance they’re always talking about having between Bell’s rushes and the passing game, to limit the wear and tear and avoid the hits taking its toll on Bell’s speed in the long run. As things stand now, however, the Steelers are in the thick of a division race and playoff hunt, so you’d be crazy to try to limit Bell’s touches just for the sake of the future.
In the offseason, there will be plenty of time to address the need for depth behind Bell. The Steelers coaching staff and front office would be stupid and irresponsible if they don’t. But, for now, you do whatever gives you the best chances to win right now.
What do you think, Steeler Nation? Should the Steelers try to limit Bell’s touches to save him for the future?