Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell had a difficult finish to last season, and a difficult start, but don’t call it a comeback
He’s been here for years. It’s true. So it’s right to expect big things from Bell. But 2015 did not go as many expected with regards to Le’Veon Bell. Both Steeler fan and fantasy football enthusiast alike suffered because of this. And Bell is a caliber of player that when he’s not playing, every football fan is losing something in the deal.
So let’s get right to the word on the street here. First, it’s widely believed the Steelers are going to do even better next season. Odds makers in Vegas have the Steelers tied for best odds to make the Super Bowl with the Patriots and Seahawks, having 8 to 1 odds according to ESPN. A common refrain when justifying these expectations is the simple logic of:
- Look how well they did without Le’Veon Bell.
- Add Le’Veon Bell back in.
- Let imagination run wild.
NFL.com’s Michael Fabiano put together a fantasy mock draft and had Le’Veon Bell going number 1 (Brown at 4 and Bryant at 31). He said of Bell, “It’s February, so Bell’s status for the start of training camp is somewhat of a mystery after he injured the MCL and PCL in his right knee last November. If he’s able to return without setbacks, he’s the top player to draft in 2016. His rehab from these knee injuries will be a hot topic of conversation.”
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller wrote about Bell, who was ranked the 3rd best running back in the NFL (Williams 17), which is as low as Bell can reasonably be put without raising eyebrows, and said, “Le’Veon Bell only played in six games in 2015, but his presence was felt when he did line up in the Pittsburgh Steelers backfield.”
Are you noticing a trend here in the all this. Everything is prefaced with an acknowledgment of Bell’s injury. And Bell is reportedly still not 100%. And really, the same expectations existed a year ago and everyone got burned. So what’s to say there won’t be more injury?
There’s been talk about whether Ryan Shazier is too injury prone for stardom. But Bell has had multiple game injuries in all of his 3 seasons. Although Bell doesn’t get talked about as injury prone, and that label is certainly debatable if you’re putting it on Bell, he does get injured sometimes, and it’s a brutal position and he takes pretty much all the snaps.
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Bell is expected to be taken highly in fantasy drafts, but he was taken highly in fantasy drafts this year, and played 6 games. So why are we all ready for more high hopes so fast? Well, one reason is Bell was the Fantasy Player of the Year the year prior.
We’ve all seen what Bell can do. It’s not a coincidence that best back in the league is a phrase commonly uttered when he comes up in discussion. It’s not a coincidence that some playing and retired elite running backs have spoken highly of his ability. It’s also not a coincidence that he was first team All-American, first team all-pro, and holds several Steelers records after just 3 years on the job. It’s because he’s that good.
And here’s something else to consider: Bell bounces back. That’s right. The 3 Bs. Bell bounces back.
Take this for example. Bell has fumbled once, in his entire career. In almost 800 touches he has not fumbled. Except for one time. He fumbled against the Packers his rookie year. The next play he was in, he jumped over a players head and took it well past the first down mark. He ended up with 124 yards, a touchdown, and the Steelers winning.
Then he had his legal troubles and got suspended for a couple games. Not good. But then he goes and does something like his 2014 season, and totally redeems himself. He ran for 1361 yards with a 4.7 yard per carry average and 8 touchdowns while catching 83 balls for 854 yards and 3 more touchdowns.
Bell is a guy who has natural abilities. No doubt about it. His vision and quickness are things you just can’t teach. Make no mistake though, Bell works hard. He made a complete physical transformation between his rookie and second year. He also wants it badly.
This combination of factors, which we’ve all seen on display, is why despite any injury, we’re all pretty much in agreement that Bell is going to do great in 2016.