Even though he has suffered knee injuries in the past two seasons, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has been wrongly labeled as a player who is “too injury prone” by fans and media.
A seasoned viewer of the NFL, I have learned to tone out most of the hot takes that saturate social media. The occasional Twitter fight is always fun, but spending too much time in the muddy pits of social media warfare will melt your brain.
One of the most frequent hot takes, of course, is the notion that Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is too injury prone of a player.
Yes, Bell went down with two injuries in two seasons. Bell suffered a season-ending MCL tear last season in week eight versus the Bengals and hyper-extended his knee late in 2014 … against the Bengals. What a coincidence.
We’ll just say that Reggie Nelson’s hit on Bell was suspect. The injury-inducing tackle by Vontaze Burfict looks inadvertent at first, keep two things in mind: 1) this is Vontaze Burfict we’re talking about, and 2) watch how Burfict swings his legs into the back of Bell’s knee. #55 has injuring opponents down to a science.
People act as if ‘tougher’ running backs would have merely brushed off those hits. Bell had a shoulder driven into his planted knee and had his body contorted with a 250 lb. man bearing down on him. Nobody’s knees are surviving these scenarios.
Injury prone is a term that has become too watered-down in sports media. Derrick Rose, the poster boy for injury-proneness, has been battling serious injuries for five consecutive years. Rose indeed is injury prone, or as Twitter says, “made of glass”.
(By the way, if you’re one of those fans who gets a sense of satisfaction when a player gets injured because you previously called them out for being injury prone … you’re trash.)
Note, however, that many of Rose’s injuries were non-contact. Rose tore his ACL and his meniscus through his own bodyweight alone whereas Bell’s injuries were caused by the force of opponents. ‘Injury prone’ is better suited for a player whose injuries are self-inflicted, no?
Call it nitpicking if you want. But Bell has never faced any real injury issues in his short career outside of the two against the Bengals.
Aside from those, Bell has been an absolute phenom for the Steelers. Bell put the entire NFL on notice in 2014 with 2,215 total yards and 11 touchdowns through sixteen weeks. Bell posted 692 total yards and a 4.9 yards per carry average in the six games he played in 2015.
Bell’s theory that teams intentionally try to hurt him is legitimate. He’s that good.
If Bell didn’t go down in week eight, would the Steelers have reached Super Bowl 50? Would they have beaten the Ravens in the AFC Wild Card in 2014? We’ll never know for sure, but Bell is one of the few players in the league who can impact a game to such a degree.
Bell has mentioned being more cautious toward the end of plays. “I’m still going to be physical; I just know that when I’m on the sidelines I can’t expect somebody to just push me out of bounds”, he told reporters at Steelers camp. Bell added that he has to “really protect [him]self”.
Watching Bell cut out of bounds prematurely on a run may be annoying to watch as a fan, but his long-term health is the utmost priority. This method worked for Steelers legend Franco Harris.
A player as diversely-skilled as Bell cannot be taken for granted. Sure, he has suffered two unfortunate injuries early in his career. He’s a world class running back – injuries are inevitable.
Slapping the injury prone label on Bell is shortsighted. He has a potential Hall of Fame career ahead of him and could be the NFL’s best back for years to come. Two malicious hits have been his only derailments.
The real question is, who isn’t injury prone on the same field as Burfict?