What Will Le’Veon Bell Contribute In His NFL Debut?

By Matthew Marczi

Some surprising news surfaced late yesterday from Jay Glazer, who reports that the Pittsburgh Steelers believe that the recovery of Le’Veon Bell’s foot injury is ahead of schedule and that they expect him to make his NFL debut in London this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.

It will certainly be a moral boost for the Steelers to see one of their prized draft picks finally take the field after essentially missing the preseason and much of training camp, but that lack of football activity will likely cause head coach Mike Tomlin and the coaching staff to limit his workload right off the bat.

Because the Steelers have their Bye following the game against Minnesota, it gives the team the perfect chance to evaluate just where Bell is, as  they can afford to test him some and then see how he rebounds during the week without the risk of a minor setback causing him to miss the following game.

One must wonder, however, just what Le’Veon Bell will be able to provide the Steelers as an offensive threat this week.

In reality, the Steelers actually did have some success on the ground during Sunday night’s loss to the Chicago Bears. The problem was that they were simply playing from behind almost immediately and were never able to ride the running game, instead turning to an aerial assault that saw Ben Roethlisberger have his first 400+ yard game since the team’s victory over the Green Bay Packers in 2009.

Roethlisberger, however, was just as big a part of the team abandoning the run as anybody, as he contributed significantly to the team’s woes with his four turnovers. He had the ball knocked out of his hands twice for strip sacks, the second of which was returned for a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions, the first one being taken all the way for a score as well.

Playing from behind—first down 17-0 and then 24-3—the Steelers had little choice but to go to the air early and often, with Roethlisberger throwing 41 passes. When they did turn to the ground, however, it was not Isaac Redman, who did not carry a single time during the game.

Instead, it was Felix Jones, until he put the ball on the ground, and then it was Jonathan Dwyer. All told, the Steelers rushed for 80 yards, which was more than double their total through the first two games, and most of that could be attributed to sporadically improved blocking, which had been the bane of the backs’ existence. Dwyer gained only 39 yards on 12 carries, but he also was able to break a couple, including one for 25 yards. Jones also added 34 yards on his seven carries and showed himself to be a good zone runner.

If the Steelers quickly fall behind as they did last week, Le’Veon Bell may not even have much of a chance to have an impact. As the blocking continues to improve, however, he could certainly find some success on the ground if the game remains close. We have not seen much at all of him other than media reports, however, so it is impossible to forecast what to expect from the second-round pick’s NFL debut.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Callentown

    Hopefully not re-injuring his foot and losing more time developing as a future RB for the Steelers. He’s not going to help this year and it’s not his fault.

  • steeltown

    I’m not sure how much he’ll help right out of the gate..especially if he only gets 8-10snaps. I was assuming he would be back after the bye and be given the full workload where we could really gauge how good he is and how far along he is based on a full games worth of snaps. As we’ve seen all too many times, its hard to gauge a runner on limited snaps and splitting time

  • Ken

    If gets a few snaps in, it will go along ways in helping him be prepared for the next time he plays. If he is healthy he needs to get some work in. It seems in all our troubles everyone is ignoring the game Antonio Brown had. He was absolutely incredible was a difference maker.

  • Ahmad

    I just hope he has a very limited snaps and the Steelers take all necessary precautions. I don’t want Bell to have another setback.

  • chris ward

    Just hope that Bell is 100% healthy and the O-line can open up some holes for him.

  • steeltown

    I know.. 21.8yds per catch avg in that game…. insane

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Heath surprised me last week with what he was able to do…can Bell do that as well? I see the turn around coming this year. First victory coming this Sunday!!!

  • cencalsteeler

    Matt, I think you hit the nail on the head. The Steelers, so far, are always playing from behind. We need to set the tone. Go out and score first. When we play from behind, the game plan changes. The Steelers want to pound the rock and chew up the clock, but are slinging passes trying to play catch up. That style has Ben playing back yard football. Last year, Cutler was being sacked, intercepted, and just playing some ugly football. Trestman tweaking that offense has made him look like a pro bowler. If Ben buys into that system, success will follow. Need proof? It was across the line of scrimmage from us Sunday night.

  • Jeff

    I’m really looking forward to seeing Bell. How great would it be if he opened his career with a 100 yard game? It’s sad to think that that’s a rarity for this Steelers offense the last few years. I think we get our first win sunday. Let’s go!

  • richard

    I doubt he will get many carries, they will probably keep him on a snap count. Unless he does manage to go out there and , his foot doesn’t bother him, then we might see him more.

  • Jeff

    I know, it’s a long shot lol. I’m just looking for something to try to get excited about……

  • Garrett Hunt

    It may be a blessing in disguise having him out the first three weeks. His return is timed perfectly with the steady improvement of the run blocking.

  • Pete

    Nobody knows until he starts running. He could be good or…he could be Tim Worley, Felix Jones or any other number of guys who couldn’t run well at the NFL level. RB generally doesn’t take long to see if a guy has got it. We’ll see very soon.

  • Bilgewater D

    I don’t necessarily agree. Mendenhall look like shite his rookie year (before his injury). He steadily improved through 2010, then regressed.


    Felix Jones has always run well…just had trouble staying on the field in DAL…but to your point, I agree…at that position (as a runner anyway) either you have it or you don’t…more instinctive.

  • Steve

    In Dallas Felix had a problem holding onto the ball, he would fumble.


    Kind of a side topic I guess but I don’t doubt that…especially now.

  • Steve

    Between Bells knee and foot problem, I hope now that his foot is better his knee dosen’t act up.

  • Steve

    Sanders was being targeted a lot. Don’t know if Ben was that off or what the cause for the dropped balls? Ben was looking to be hit and did not have a lot of time in the pocket.