Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, destined to start the moment he was drafted in the second round last year, battled injuries early in his first season, which caused him to miss the first three games before starting in the fourth.
From then on, the team handed him the keys and let him go, receiving about 300 touches in his 13 games played. The team had little concern handing him a significant work immediately, as he had 20 touches in his first game, maxing out at 29 touches.
That may have had as much to do with the backs behind him—Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones—as it did anything else, even if the two got their token touches. 17 of Jones’ 48 carries came before Bell took the field for the first time, as did 13 of Dwyer’s 49.
Expect that to be different in Bell’s second season, thanks to the acquisition of LeGarrette Blount. The Steelers expect LeBackfield to split the workload more equitably than was the case last season, even if Bell will still see the lion’s share of it.
And from the sounds of it, Bell will have no problem splitting carries with Blount, a player that he followed through his college career.
“I thought he was going to be a good player to come in and run downhill”, he said after first learning of the signing. “He’s a bigger guy. His running style’s a little different than mine, but it’s something I can take from him—part of his game—and put it into mine and help me become a better player”.
Naturally, adding a player of Blount’s caliber—who saved the New England Patriots’ backfield last season when he was a fringe roster player in training camp—meant that the Steelers intend to use him a fair bit. Would he be okay with that?
Most definitely. I’m definitely not a selfish guy. I’m far from thinking about just myself. Plus that’s going to give me time to recuperate and be fresh. A lot of the times, that’s how I look at it, being fresh: doing the little things, catching balls out of the backfield, moving me around, because we’ve got other guys who can come in and carry the load.
Still, he has no problem being the workhorse when he has to be. After all, it’s something he’s done his entire career. He basically was his college team’s entire offense in his final season before the Steelers drafted him. Considering that, he had no issues with the workload that they gave him in his rookie season:
“I don’t feel like it was too much. I feel like my body can handle it. I don’t think I was too banged up at the end of the year. Plus I’m still young.” He added, “I look forward to it. I don’t ever think it’s too much. At the end of the day if I get tired I take a break or go in practice to get better, get in shape, whatever it may be”.
Assuming that Blount can prove to hold on to the ball this season, LeBackfield can help give the Steelers the balanced offense on the ground and through the air that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger recently claimed in a revisionist moment that he’s always wanted.