Steelers James Conner already better at some things than Le’Veon Bell
By Tommy Jaggi
The Steelers found James Conner in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft. Here are some of the areas in which he has already outperformed Le’Veon Bell.
Regardless of what some media outlets will try to tell you, the Steelers did not suffer without Le’Veon Bell (there were plenty of other causes for suffering). In fact, James Conner proved to outperform Bell in many areas.
For starters, Bell was more efficient rushing the ball than Le’Veon Bell was in his final season starting for the Steelers. He took a major dip in efficiency from 2016 to 2017 – falling down to 4.0 yards per carry. Conner averaged 4.5 yards per rush and his 9.0 yards per reception was a higher mark than Bell has seen in over 4 years.
Although he’s not a burner, Conner has proved to have more breakaway speed than Bell. He exploded for a 20+ yard run every 24 carries, whereas Bell hit 20 yards once every 111 carries (an insanely large difference).
Pro Football Focus recently shed light on James Conner’s elusiveness rating compared to each year Le’Veon Bell played:
Conner was able to avoid tacklers at a higher rate than Bell during any season throughout his career.
James Conner has also proven to be an unstoppable force when the endzone is near – scoring 12 touchdowns on 215 carries (once every 18 touches).
Bell, on the other hand, was never a touchdown machine. Despite carrying the ball 321 times in the 2017 season, he managed just 9 touchdowns. Over the past four years, Bell has scored 19 touchdowns on his last 695 touches (every 37 touches).
The Steelers were fortunate that Bell did not take the deal they offered him. James Conner has been an excellent replacement for a fraction of the price. Pittsburgh now has the cheapest group of running backs in the league – making just over $3M in 2019.
Le’Veon Bell was a very good player for the Steelers, but don’t confuse volume for efficiency. In many ways, James Conner has outperformed Bell.