Many Steelers Fans Will Forever Measure Le\’Veon Bell Against Eddie Lacy

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.

  • SteelerDave

    To me there are two huge differences which make Bell stand out. Bell is great at picking up the blitz on passing downs – Lacy is poor at that. Bell also routinely saw and squeezed through small openings whereas Lacy would simply go down when that happened. Had Bell had the O-line Lacy did he would have been the 1st RB off the board. In many ways it is good Bell’s O-line was mediocre he had to learn to find small openings and he had to learn to find the blitz.

    Bell is never going to be an outside the tackles runner but let him plow through the middle and toss him some screens and he will turn out to be the best.

  • L.Bell was my #1 ranked RB. I was hoping he would have been a 3rd or 4th rd selection!? I understand why they took him cuz “rumors” had Denver interested in him. BUT Arthur Brown was still on the board. We do need an ILB and guess who else did…Baltimore!! Had we taken Brown, we would have addressed a need, taken a better player, AND hurt Baltimore.

  • Soliciting Steelers

    Obviously being the 4th RB taken, teams are aware of some of Lacy’s skeletons in the closet so to speak. Wish we knew what they were !

  • Jason Brant

    I was shocked when they picked Bell. However, after listening to Haley discuss why they liked him, and watching how tough this kid runs, I’ve changed my mind. Lacy had a ridiculously good line and Bell didn’t.

    My initial reaction was that they reached, but the run on backs later in the round proved me wrong. He wouldn’t have been there in the third, so it’s not much of a reach. They wanted him and this was the only way they could get him.

    Let me just say that I love the fact that a power back has returned to the ‘burgh.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I don’t think they will measure for long. Lacy simply isn’t as good nor does he fit as well into the offense. The idea that people even feel they can rate a college back that gets 4.5 yards per carry before first contact is a little funny since just about any one of us could do that.

  • RW

    I’m starting to come around to Bell. I was adamantly against him as a second round pick yesterday, but after watching a bunch of film on him and Eddie Lacy, it became apparent to me why they chose Bell.

    Bell reminds me of a young Steven Jackson because of his athleticism, build and for his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, not to mention his penchant for loving contact. Given how many fans were screaming for us to sign Jackson, I’m starting to wonder why this pick is being criticized so much. I initially wanted a fast change of pace back to pair with Dwyer, but it is now very clear to me why the Steelers nabbed Bell in the second – you just don’t pass on a 21 year old version of Steven Jackson.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    And still be without a running back

  • zyzak

    Like Bell and Wheaton, Jones gives me great pause. Hope I am wrong because they need him to be great, good won’t cut it

  • Eric MacLaurin

    The biggest difference in my mind is that one of them did it all by himself and the other had others do most of it for him. One was behind a line of high draft picks and the other was behind a bunch of MacDonald all american burger flippers.

  • CW

    To be honest I did not like this pick initially, but looking back at the other Tide running backs in recent years, Trent Richardson might be the only really good one of the bunch. But other than him it’s a weird list of mediocre backs at best in the Pros.

    Mark Ingram was supposed to be a great running back and was selected in the 1st round, but to date he’s only managed just over 1,000 yards rushing in two full years with the Saints.

    Glen Coffee before him turned into a bizarre bust for the 49ers by retiring after a single season.

    None of the other running backs in the mix in recent years even got drafted, now of course they were minor players and no where near a primary back, but it still stands that there’s been little real production from most Tide backs outside Richardson.

    So there’s every reason at this point to wonder if for the most part the Tide backs are simply a product of a nearly all Pro football caliber offensive line.

  • John Hinton

    I’m ok with where we picked Bell as some of the respected scouting sites had him rated as a mid 2nd Round RB. The overall range given was mid 2nd – 3rd Rounds. After watching film on him, I see the Steven Jackson comparisons.

  • David Edward

    I think the Steelers pretty much locked into Jones and Bell as their first two picks going in. The interesting question a savvy reporter should ask is whether there where any trade offers when 17 and 48 rolled around. With Jones I think they had blinders on and weren’t going to risk losing him because he was a player they coveted. Interestingly, I’ll bet they could’ve traded down with SF who did so with Dallas one pick behind @18. They would’ve got #30 and #74. @30 They could’ve had Elam who went to Ravens @31…or Cyprien who went @32. Then, @74 they could’ve had Terrance Williams or Keenan Allen, or just take Wheaton there and have #79 to pick someone else. Also, with Bell @ 48, SF was looking to trade and did so with GB (who ended up with Lacy). They could’ve still had Bell and picked up and extra 6th in the process. I actually like Bell better than Lacy, and with the LaRod signing, I think Franklin became less interesting to them. However, it’s possible they could’ve still had Bell plus an extra pick. Just some things to think about

  • Stephen Dale

    the comparison between Bell and George is Haley’s alone since George was 6’3″ and had breakaway speed . I don’t sense Mr bell has that extra gear. As a Steeler fan, I question whether a RB was needed anymore than a ILB–which the Steelers could have drafted #2 and gotten Arthur Brown in the process.. I sense mike Tomlin made this selection and , as he did with Jason Worilds, probably missed again.

  • dave

    Yep, exactly,
    If we took Montee Ball there, everyone would be whining that he was a huge reach and would have lasted until round 3 or 4. In reality, he went a few picks later to Denver.

  • dave

    I remember a lot of people wanted LenDale White instead of the Sanonio Holmes trade too… The Steelers tend to get this right more often than not…

  • Don

    SJax was my first impression, too

  • RW

    Yes – Eddie George’s 4.53 40 yard dash time was infinitely faster than Le’Veon Bell’s 4.57. I wish Bell had George’s breakaway speed… oh wait…

  • dgh57

    Bell rushed for almost 1800 yards behind a average line at best! What would he of done behind Alabama’s line?!!! I like this pick a lot.

  • Franklin and some others still on the board. I like the idea of drafting the BPA while at the same time filling a need. The bonus would of been that it took Brown off the board and left Baltimore hurting.

  • dgh57

    I hate it when you ask Haley to comment on a player like Bell he says, “without getting into the specifics” I would love to know what those specifics are!

    Part of the reason Bell was taken over Lacy I believe is Bell hasn’t had problems with injuries that I know of. Lacy was dealing with hamstring issues which to some degree has to do with conditioning. Plus, we already had Redman and Dwyer with ankle and hammy issues already on the roster!

  • Stephen Dale

    David Edward : agree with you 100%. could have also made the trade with Minnesota for several extra picks ( which NE did later). It is apparant Pittsburgh’s front office either has no vision about making trades or the front office is not making the draft selections ( the specter of Mike tomlin is ever present). Either way, why are they paying Kevin Colbert ??????

  • Eric MacLaurin

    This draft was noted for being about the same between the 2nd and 4th. They got an excellent WR and also got the perfect RB. I’m not interested in adjusting my draft to block an opponent from a second day ILB.

  • mokhkw

    Packers got Lacy (2nd) and Franklin (4th). We got Bell (2nd) and signed Stephens-Howling. I’d have a hard time choosing between both of these options if given the choice tbh.

  • Tom Yun

    Bell is the quintessential Steelers back- big and slow. Oi Vey! How bout solidifying the OL so these guys have a chance to run

  • r4kolb

    I think Haley also mentioned running backs coach Kirby Wilson watches tape as to what a back can do when there is no hole to run through. Obviously he saw something with Bell that he didn’t with Lacy. Haley also danced around something else they saw in Bell that they didn’t in Lacy. When pressed as to what he kept dancing around the question so we may never know what that is. However, there definately is more to the Bell over Lacy pick then we know. Again, time will tell.

  • Haslem

    Lacy is poor at picking up the blitz and pressing the hole? Ah no