Film Room: Not Much Running Room For Steelers Bell Against Browns

If you own Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell in any of your fantasy football leagues, don’t go dropping him just yet. Sure, Bell’s Week 1 output was dismal and especially his 32 rushing yards on 10 carries, but in my opinion, he had a lot of help when it came to him producing so poorly on the ground Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

In short, Bell didn’t have a lot of running room in Sunday’s win over the Browns as not only did the interior of the Steelers offensive line do a poor job of blocking, but a few tight ends and wide receivers as well. A great example of this can be found on Bell’s very first carry of the game. He did good to get back to original line of scrimmage on this play.

Of Bell’s 10 rushes against the Browns, 8 of them went into the books as being “unsuccessful” runs. Those 8 runs, by the way, resulted in a paltry 12 yards gained but even that number doesn’t tell the whole story.

According to my review of the all-22 tape from Sunday’s game, Bell had 19 yards after first contact on those 8 runs. You dont have to be a math major to figure out that those after contact yards were a result of him having company in either the Steelers backfield, or right at the original line of scrimmage.

Was Bell’s timing off a tad due to him missing all of training camp and the preseason? If it was, you really couldn’t tell it on his 10 carries. In fact, on one unsuccessful run that gained 5 yards on 2nd and 9 from the Browns 9-yard-line, Bell looked like his usual self and he even took a nice pop from a Browns defensive back at the end of it.

According to Pro Football Focus, Bell averaged 3.2 yards after contact against the Browns on his 10 total carries and that average was fifth-best for Week 1 when compared to the 34 other running backs who had 10 more carries.

Not that it means much, but Bell had two runs totaling 19 yards that were negated because of holding calls on center Maurkice Pouncey and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Would he have gained those yards had the holds not occurred? We’ll never know but the call against Smith-Schuster was questionable and in my opinion, Bell still would have gotten to the edge. I will let you decide as that play is below.

The easy narrative for Bell’s poor showing of running the football on Sunday is that he was out of sync with the entire offense due to him sitting out all of training camp and the preseason. Personally, I think his lack of total carries on Sunday, his first of which came with 17 seconds remaining in the first quarter, combined with poor blocking up front was the main culprit.

We’ll see if Bell can rebound this coming Sunday at home against the Minnesota Vikings. If he doesn’t, I still wouldn’t drop him from your fantasy football team if I were you.

  • Rob

    Yup..that’s what I saw on sunday as well. Few holes opened up, and a number of poorly executed blocks. He made the most of what he had, given his time away from the team.

  • Queue up the Bell hate…

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Pouncey got owned in the last gif as well.

  • Edjhjr

    To me it seemed they , Browns -had 8 or 9 guys on or 3 yards off the line.

    There aren’t any quick hit passes to get them out of that?

  • falconsaftey43

    Anyone who actually watched the game and didn’t just want to blindly hate on Bell saw this. Pretty telling when you average yards after contact is the same as your yards per carry.

  • Sdale

    Exactly! How can a slant or TE seam route work on those? We don’t seem to use much play action, and when we do, we don’t seem to do it well.

  • Big White

    Agreed. The O-Line was ineffective, but i don’t blame them. Haley called one of the worst games of his career and that is saying an awful lot.

  • Did he hit holes [or creases] as decisively as he could, was his burst fully ‘Bellesque,’ did he set up his blocks as he’s famous for doing? You don’t know if he could have done better with six weeks of practice, Dave, and I don’t either. The simple truth is this:

    If he had signed the contract and reported to camp with the rest of the team, no one would have any cause for asking these questions or for believing he stuck it to his team and Steeler Nation. He made this situation, not us fans who choose to believe what our eyes [and his stats] told us in week one and what we said all along would happen.

  • Yep. He made the most of what he had given his time away from the team. That’s the point, isn’t it?

  • falconsaftey43

    So your theory is if he showed up to camp, when two defenders meet him in the backfield as he is getting the handoff, he’s make them both miss and gain 5 yards? Seriously, did you read the article and watch the GIFs? Look at that first play and tell me what he could have done. You realise he got all of 4 carries in the first half right? His yards after contact average was the same as his yards per carry. The browns owned the OL and were in the backfield all day.

  • Steeler Nation!

    O line didn’t look good. He didn’t look good either. He looked sluggish, slow. He looked slower than some rookies and easily replaceable. And I don’t think anyone hates Bell. They make think he’s a DA for turning down the Steelers offer-and you can count me in that group. He better get his crap together or he’ll REALLY regret rejecting that offer.

  • Rob

    If I’m not being clear: Even adjusting for any rust associated with missing time with teammates, if any, Bell produced well with an o-line and tight ends that consistently failed to hold their blocks or generate any push for most of the game. His time off was likely a minimal contributor to the poor running performance.

  • nutty32

    Single safety high pretty much all day. Rest of their guys in the box shooting their assigned single gap ’85 Bears style.

  • Craig M

    To me, Bells performance was on Haley. When your line has trouble w/ making holes you try a FB lead blocker and fakes to your RB w/ short passes to your slot/ RBs pass the LOS. Short passes to backs/ TEs or slot receiver are the same as yards gained by the RBs IMO.

  • falconsaftey43

    I’m not sure what the 6 WR screens in a row we’re all about. I don’t mind a WR screen, but he went a little crazy there. Ben didn’t do any favors either, by passed quite a few WRs open short to take shots, and missed on a few shorter throws (crosser to Bryant comes to mind). It was week one, they’ll all get better.

  • Steeler Nation!

    The o line wasn’t its usual dominant self by any means. But that’s what he would be most places. He’s been the beneficiary of playing behind a premier O line.

  • SteelersDepot

    You should really get a gamepass account and view it without even knowing if he showed up for camp. It sounds like you want your narrative to stick regardless of what the tape shows. If I thought he looked different and missed a hole, I have no issue saying so.

  • SteelersDepot

    which run of his 10 did you think he failed on?

  • Robert E Lil

    Come on. What are we talking about. At some point in the 3rd quarter there was a count of 22 passes to 4 rushes.

  • NinjaMountie

    Simple as this. Yes, not being in camp has definitely impacted Bell’s ability to perform. That being said, it didn’t matter this game because he could have been in last years peak form and not gotten anything in this game.
    I don’t like that he missed camp. I also understand a bit why he did. Seriously, though, hate is the only thing keeping people from admitting there wasn’t anything he could have done.

  • falconsaftey43

    Certainly the OL has been to his benefit, that’s not what we’re talking about though. We are talking about this game. The blocking sucked, he was hit in the backfield most plays, there was nothing he could do. His poor stats weren’t the result of him not being in camp.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Several. He looked slow and not as instinctive as usual. Even on the hold on JJSS, should’ve been quicker through the hole and it should’ve been for a bigger gain. Did anyone confuse him with Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, AP, or anyone asking for twice what the next highest paid RB gets?

  • Steeler Nation!

    There have been RBs that have made a living with the blocking that he had last Sunday. But he is not one of those. He’s been spoiled by playing behind a great o line.

  • NinjaMountie

    Agreed. Those same running backs had games like he had, too. I guess what I’m saying is that I wouldn’t read too much into one game.

  • Rob S.

    His quarterback didn’t do him any favors either. There were at least a few instances where a run play was dead in the water based on the front being presented by the Browns and Ben didn’t check out of it or when he did check it was still a running play. I mean, I have no idea how much control Ben has over completely changing a play but you think at this point in his career he would have the freedom to go from one play to a completely different play whenever he saw something in the defense.

  • falconsaftey43

    You realize he has the highest yards after contact average of any RB over the last 3 season with 2.82?

  • falconsaftey43

    I wouldn’t blame that too much. They threw it 36 and ran it 17 times, you have to have some balance even if they do load the box.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Maybe if they ran some play action once in awhile?

  • Steeler Nation!

    I would’ve taken him over any back in the league, when he’s been available. But I’m not putting all that on the O line either. He didn’t look good, Period. He better get it together, whether the o line gets back to dominating or not. And they have been dominant the last few years. No back has had an o line that stayed on their blocks as long as Bell has had. And yet he’s dumb enough to think it’s all because of him. Taste of reality last Sunday.

  • nutty32

    I’d tend to think that’s the last thing you want to do against an over blitzing team. Begging to be sacked & getting the QB hit blindside.

  • RMSteeler

    James, Grimble and whoever that WR was in the first GIF went deep into the old Mike Adams blocking scheme. Now that’s old school.

  • falconsaftey43

    Those guys didn’t look amazing every game either they needed blocking too.

    In Sanders best season, he had a 10 carry 20 yard game and a 15 for 33. Browns best season he had a 17 for 51. AP’s best year was more consistent, but he still had 3 games with under 3.75 ypc. Dickerson’s record season featured a 13 for 38 and 23 for 49.

  • nutty32

    It could be argued that WR screens are essentially runs, way to get better numbers with only 1 high safety and 8 stacked in the box. MB need only beat the cb & safety v. Bell having to break through the stack. It’s funny how these other guys like to cry about the wr screens AND complain as to why Haley doesn’t throw more short passes when the Browns were stacked. Aren’t screens short passes?

  • Steeler Nation!

    Ok. I still think all those guys were much better. I could see a rapid decline coming for Bell. And while I was really hoping the deal would get done, I’m really glad he didn’t sign it now. I think it was for too much $ and for too long. And most of us won’t care when he leaves.

  • SteelersDepot

    SMH

  • WreckIess

    What?? I was told that it’s strictly because he’s a greedy diva who skipped training camp. It couldn’t be because the line was underperforming. Overreactionary Depot commentators would never steer me wrong!

  • Steeler Nation!

    Shake whatever you want. Or take up for your fantasy RB. He sure doesn’t look like the big “difference maker” everyone makes him out to be. On 2/3 of the teams in the league, he would look pretty damn average.

  • WreckIess

    What running back going too look good getting hit in the backfield? In all three of those plays he had to juke or break off of someone in the backfield just to get yards. Who’s having success doing that?

    Also, let’s just get something straight. You all need to stop acting like Bell thinks he does it all on his own. That personality trait was placed on him by you guys, not by anything he’s ever done. Seriously, he’s never said anything close to that and considering how well his teammates like him, he obviously doesn’t come across like that to them.

  • WreckIess

    So basically what you’re saying is that because he gave you a reason not to like him, it’s his fault if you choose to blame him for statistical ineffectiveness even though there’s plenty of evidence that contradicts your opinion?

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Definitely not the last thing you want to do when you have the best rb in the league. That’s why you max protect.

  • Mister Wirez

    Haley doesn’t use play action.. like ever.

  • Mister Wirez

    The 5 wide sets aren’t selling anything either. The Steelers are becoming fairly predictable. It would be nice to get back to Steelers style power run game and maybe 2 TEs and a FB. I SO loathe the bubble screens though.

  • Darth Blount 47

    What do most of the Bell detractors think he was doing all off-season??? Eating Ho-Ho’s and Dairy Queen Blizzards? The guy is in tremendous physical shape. Do 5 seconds of digging and you can see that. If anyone is honest, the most un-talked about aspect of this pre-season, was how the O-Line for Pittsburgh was not performing up to their ability, and looked as though they were perplexingly rusty. Which happens. Though is a tad odd for a Line that has as much general continuity as they do.

    O-Lines are funny. One tiny weak link and the whole thing can begin to falter. And when you add in the responsibilities to block from the TE’s and even WR’s, it gets even easier to suddenly struggle some. Compound all of that with terrible play-calling and having a non-rhythm, and just like that you are asking for trouble on the road.

    Luckily, talent and health and experience, tend to win out. So we’ll be fine. But I agree with the assessment that this particular performance, was much less on Bell than the “haters” want to admit.

  • Steeler-Drew

    In addition to the lack of play action is Haley never seems to get Ben out in space with semi-rolllouts or misdirection plays. Ben is a better QB out in space and making throws on the run. Yet most of the time if he completes a pass on the run or out in space it’s because Ben created it and it wasn’t by design.

  • Sdale

    Yeah, I think someone on Steelers Depot counted it and I can’t remember how many, but it was like 32 times the whole year or something like that.

  • Steve

    The 1st gif has 6 defenders and only 5 blockers on the right. The Browns were stacking the line, this is when you do a quick throw to the TE or RB out of the backfield.

  • Steve

    Not really, Pouncy had a reach block and did a decient job. Bell had the hold but was too slow to get there.

  • Steve

    When they stack the line, Quick hit to the TE should open the run up.

  • Steve

    Look at the 2nd Gif – Big Al gave a look out block to no one. Foster pulls and slam the DE.

  • Dewayne Braxton

    Lets face it. Last week the O-line got beat up front. They were not awful because Ben was protected pretty well. But the overall performance in Tomlin’s words “was below the line”. For years Ben has said that the offense is only as good as the O-line. The Steeler’s line is among the highest paid units in the league. Last Sunday they did not play like up to standard. The bottom line is before the Vikings come to town they need to get better.

  • Dewayne Braxton

    Many credit Bells’ running style as the main reason for his success. I don’t think most backs would do nearly as good behind the Steeler’s line. He waits and picks holes. Whereas when you see the holes Elliot explodes through most starting caliber backs would have success in Dallas. The Steeler’s line is good but it is not dominant not has it been. This really shows up on the road and in the red area where a power run game is key for success.

  • falconsaftey43

    Well they are all HOF, so it is fine if you think they are better. That said, you saying you really hoped a deal would have gotten done and then continuing to say he isn’t a difference maker doesn’t makes it seem like you are letting his contract decision influence what you think of him. As a player. It happens all the time, fans take it personal when players leave the team because of money.

  • Dewayne Braxton

    I agree, Bell did look slow and sluggish. Fact is he is not a speedster. As soon as he loses even a half a step his carer is over.

  • falconsaftey43

    Haha, that’s a good way of putting it Wreckless

  • falconsaftey43

    Yeah, but he turned down a big contract from the Steelers so obviously he is a selfish egomaniac… Some people are really butt hurt by Bell not signing a deal or showing up to camp so they can no longer see what happens on the field.

  • Steeler Nation!

    I was hoping he would retire a Steeler. But I also know that RBs have a very short shelf life. I think the Steelers offer was too much $ for too long. I’m glad he didn’t sign because I think it would’ve hurt us in the long run. He’s had some serious injuries. I think he has peaked and at some point in the next year or 2 will probably begin a rapid decline.

  • Steeler Nation!

    And I don’t think anyone is saying “he’s terrible, he’s finished”. But in keeping everything relative to his contract-and his contract demands-he sure didn’t look like a difference maker. Didn’t look like a guy worth $12M much less $15-17M. Would Fournette have picked up as many or more yards with the same opportunities Sunday? I think he would have. At a much lower cost.

  • Av232

    I guess that was the point of the poorly executed outside screens.

  • falconsaftey43

    I think we are looking at things from different perspectives.

    I do not put money into the equation at all, I simply look at what happens on the field when I’m evaluating how a guy plays.

    I agree that Bell’s contract offer was more than I would have paid and too much for a RB because of the length. He will decline at some point.

    I do NOT, however, look to diminish his on field ability by creating a narrative that he didn’t play well. Yes his production was poor and most backs would have had similar results, but that’s because it was a terrible day of run blocking. On days when he gets decent-good run blocking he does extremely well and better than most RBs would do, has been proven by his past production. You’re attempting to compare his lowlights to other RBs and say see they are the same lowlights. You completely ignore the fact that his highlights are much higher.

    If you did want to look at the money, the OL is the group you should be mad at, as they are the 3rd highest paid OL unit in the league.

    Fournette is not a good argument for you as he cost a 4th overall pick which is a huge investment in draft capital and he makes $6.7M/y which isn’t exactly cheap.

  • Matt Rippin

    You almost have me convinced. But I definitely felt, watching in real time, that Bell’s reads were just a tick slower than usual and he went to the ground just a bit more easily. Which is exactly what you would expect from a guy who hasn’t played full-contact football in nine months. It’s hard to isolate a running back’s performance, because almost every successful run involves running through a hole, and every unsuccessful run involves a defender getting in his way. But we’ve seen the spectacular from Bell at many times in the past; he just didn’t appear to be in “mid-season form,” as the cliché goes, especially when you add in his receiving film.

  • popsiclesticks

    It seemed to me like the Browns were daring the Steelers to go downfield and instead they just spent much of the first half running into the teeth of that defense. In Conner’s first half carries he lost yards because there just wasn’t anything there.

  • popsiclesticks

    The quick hitters seemed to go to the wrong guy. I think they should have pushed it 10+ yards downfield but they just seemed to run right into the teeth of the defense for most of the first half.

  • popsiclesticks

    We’re not trying to assign blame or figure out who should have been there when. We’re just trying to determine what happened. You can’t set up a block that isn’t there.

  • popsiclesticks

    Barry Sanders had a ton of awful games where you wouldn’t confuse him with Barry Sanders. So has AP.

  • popsiclesticks

    The 4th overall pick is a huge cost. Do you think Jameis Winston or Mariota could do what Ben does at a much lower cost? Ben’s had games where he looks like a bottom 15 QB. AB has games where he looks like a run-of-the-mill WR. Wait until it becomes a trend.

  • popsiclesticks

    Last year, snap judgments had us thinking Sammie Coates was a huge difference maker. Now he’s the 4th WR on the Browns.

  • popsiclesticks

    Name one. RBs with blocking like that become journeymen and contribute to the narrative that any rookie RB can do what the elite RBs do.

    When Jay Ajayi’s blocking suffered, he became pedestrian. David Johnson wasn’t doing much before he got hurt. Cincinnati’s blocking suffered and their RBs looked terrible. There were multiple guys in the backfield on half of these runs.

  • popsiclesticks

    There are times when they are dominant but I agree that there are absolutely times where Bell makes them look better than they are actually playing.

  • popsiclesticks

    Thought the same thing. The playcalling sucked but Ben can see what the Browns are doing and get out of it. The 3rd and 1 where Bell got stuffed by 4 Browns was one that stuck out.

  • popsiclesticks

    Seemed like the first half was full of that.

  • Michael Conrad

    Man there was a lot going on . Bad play calls. Poor blocking and just not ready for an aggressive D front. I’m calling this poor game planing and using the same plays week in week out and over the years. No play action. No QB boot .Nothing just D players moving at the snap.

    This is on coaching and Ben sleep walking and overall lack of game time action. I look for improvement this week.

    I think this is what keeps Ben from being in the Brady,Rogers upper tier of QB’s just to many times he does not change the play and get out of bad plays.

  • Steeler Nation!

    While I agree on the draft capital being steep, I don’t think you can separate $ from production.
    I just didn’t see any burst, even on the hold on JJSS. I hope he’s just getting into game feel. But I wonder when he’ll drop off. Soon I bet.

  • falconsaftey43

    My point about the money is it doesn’t affect his on field ability. You can look at the money and think it was too much of an investment and not think he’s worth that kind of money. That’s fine, and subjective. What you shouldn’t do (which is how many are coming off) is look at his salary or salary demands and let that affect how you evaluate his skill set. Example, IMO it’s fair and ok to say Bell’s skill set is not worth $X. Or, I’d rather spend $X on a Safety instead of a RB. What’s unfair is to then extrapolate that and say because he wanted $X, he’s no longer one of the best RBs in the league because there are guys that can do similar things that cost less. Or saying he wasn’t a great impact player in this game, so he’s not one of the best RBs in the game.

    His talent and skill set are what they are. His stats and tape over the past 3 years show he’s one of, if not the, best RBs in the NFL. That’s not affected by how much he makes or wants to make. You don’t have to think he’s worth his salary/salary demands, but don’t suddenly lower your perception of his talent level because of it. If we see a significant drop in his statistics or on field ability, then we can talk about his talent level compared to those in the rest of the league. 10 carries week 1 with poor blocking in front of him is not any sort of indication his talent is diminished.

    Money talk is for the off season, once the games starts, it’s about what guys do on the field, period. Next offseason we can all talk again about what kind of money Bell is worth based on his career and 2017 performance.

    He makes a little jump cut to avoid the DT that penetrated next to Pouncey in the backfield, that slowed him up. Let’s wait till we actually see any sort of trend of poor performance before we go predicting he’s going to be done soon.

  • Steeler Nation!

    I cannot say definitively that he has lost a step and will decline rapidly, after seeing this one subpar performance. And you cannot say for sure that he is not in decline. Time will tell. I still think he didn’t look like his old self. And with his injuries, he is going to fall off the cliff at some point. Hopefully not until he helps us win another Super Bowl.