It probably goes without saying that the Pittsburgh Steelers are a better football team when they have Le’Veon Bell healthy and on the field. In fact, I’m sure it does.
However, you might not know exactly how important he is for Pittsburgh’s offense.
According to Evan Silva at Rotoworld, the Steelers have played without Bell in five games over the last two years (including the playoffs) and they’ve lost them all while averaging a measly 16 points per game:
Last week DeAngelo Williams put on quite a show in Bell’s absence, rushing for an impressive 127 yards on 21 carries. Still, it wasn’t enough to get the job done against the Patriots, who were able to move the chains at will on offense and scored four touchdowns through the air. While Williams looked solid, it makes me wonder how many more yards Bell could have gotten had he been in the game.
Next up for the Steelers are the San Francisco 49ers, who have been one of the NFL’s top run defense teams over the last several years. Last season the Niners gave up only four yards per carry, which ties them for the 8th best mark in the league. Since 2009 they’ve never given up more.
With the First Pick
In Week 1 Adrian Peterson made his long-awaited return to the field and everyone was anticipating a banner day, but the 49ers shut him down to the tune of 31 yards on 10 carries. By defending the run so well the 49ers force their opponents to become one-dimensional on offense, and that usually leads to trouble. Without Bell, it will be that much harder for Pittsburgh to move the ball effectively.
On the other hand, Ben Roethlisberger has an obscene amount of receiving weapons to work with and he’ll probably be more than happy to air the ball out, but he may run the risk of getting pass-happy and throwing an interception.
Our entire Still Curtain staff has picked Pittsburgh to win this game, but if the Niners are able to bait Big Ben and the Steelers into costly turnovers, they will have a serious chance of an upset on the road.
Next week Bell will finally return from his suspension against the St. Louis Rams and he will be welcomed back with open arms. The trouble is the team may already be in an 0-2 hole thanks in large part to his suspension.
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