On the second day of the 2013 NFL draft the Pittsburgh Steelers were in search of a running back and with their second round pick, the 48th overall, they chose to bypass Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, who many considered to be the best in this years\’ class, to select Michigan State running back Le\’Veon Bell instead.
Once the selection was made, a good portion of the Steelers fan base went into a tirade, as they couldn\’t fathom why such a decision was made to not only take Bell over Lacy, but also, in their opinion, reach for him a round earlier than they could have had him.
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley met the media shortly after the selection was made, and with confidence, said that heading into Friday the plan was to draft Bell all along.
“Without getting into the specifics, as the process went on it was pretty clear this was the guy we would be most excited about being available when it came to our pick,” said Haley. “In the end, he was (our top-rated running back). Without getting into specifics, there are a lot of different factors that go into that. He is a young guy who is big. With no disrespect, I drew some Eddie George physical comparisons to him because Le’Veon is taller than what you would normally see. He’s a good athlete. We love the fact that he catches the ball really well, and he still has that big back presence.”
Bell, who measured in at the combine at 6013, 230 pounds, normally weighs roughly 15 more pounds than that, but apparently dropped weight for the combine in order to run faster. His 4.56 forty time in Indianapolis was better than the 4.64 that Lacy ran at his pro day. Lacy, who Bucky Brooks of the NFL Network reported didn\’t look ready for his big day, claimed afterwards that he still was overcoming a hamstring injury and was not yet 100 percent healed.
Both Bell and Lacy are considered three down backs, but the former Spartan is easily the better pass catcher and blocker of the two. In 40 games at Michigan State, Bell recorded 78 catches for 531 yards compared to Lacy, who in 37 games at Alabama, posted 35 catches for 338 yards.
While talking about Bell on Friday, Haley noted that his new running back didn\’t have a lot of tread on his tires. Steelers fans, however, will be quick to point out that Lacy finished his college career with 284 less carries than Bell had with only three less touchdowns. Lacy also had a much better yards per carry than Bell. 1.78 more, to be exact.
Haley was asked about the difference between the two backs and pretty much wrote Lacy\’s success off to the huge holes that he ran through that were provided by the players his top notch offensive line, two of which were drafted in the first round.
“It depends what tape you put on, but yes, I think that Eddie probably had arguably the best offensive line in front of him,” said Haley.
At this point, nothing that was said by Haley during his talk with the media on Friday will matter to Steelers fans that hate or question the pick. The only thing that will matter, however, is if Bell now outperforms Lacy, who wound up being drafted by the Green Bay Packers 13 picks later than Bell, and gasp, three picks after the Denver Broncos selected Wisconsin running back Montee Ball.
For the rest of Bell\’s career with the Steelers, he will always be measured against Lacy by a good portion of the fan base. In a addition, I am willing to bet that both Ball and North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard, who was the first running back drafted overall by the Cincinnati Bengals near the beginning of the second round, will both be measured by a large group of their respective fan bases against Lacy as well.