Entering Week 5 of the NFL regular season, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has 104 total touches and that’s second-most in the league behind only Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (106). Bell, by the way, also enters Week 5 with the most rushing attempts with 87. However, it’s worth noting that 39 (37.5%) of Bell’s total touches this season came in the Steelers Week 4 road win over the Baltimore Ravens.
During his Tuesday press conference , Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked how he goes about monitoring the workload of Bell so that he doesn’t run his proverbial wheels off.
“I monitor him always,” Tomlin said. “I don’t wait for something to become an issue to monitor his participation and his workload. It’s something that’s continually monitored. And when we choose to utilize him in the ways that we did last week, it’s a conscious decision. So, I’m not worried about naysayers and things of that nature, no.”
While Bell’s workload was extremely high in the Steelers win over the Ravens, that appears to have been the plan heading into the contest. quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said as much before and after Sunday’s game and offensive coordinator Todd Haley recently explained the decision to use Bell heavily against the Ravens during a recent interview with steelers.com.
“We went into that game knowing you could get in trouble pretty easy there, a hostile environment,” said Haley in regard to Bell’s heavy usage against the Ravens. “We went in with the mentality that we were going to play it close to the vest.”
So how does Bell feel right now coming off a game that included him touching the football 39 times?
“I feel good,” Bell said Thursday. “I came in here and got a good conditioning run in, a good lift, I did my normal routine, obviously, trying to get the body back. Today was really the day, the first practice day, where I felt a little different, but the coaches did a good job of kind of protecting me from myself, really taking some reps off me. But I feel good, I feel good. I cant complain, I’m ready to go after it.”
It will now be interesting to see Bell’s usage over the course of the next four games. So far during his career, Bell’s only exceeded 140 total touches in the Steelers first eight games of a season just once and that was when he registered 183 in 2014.
With Bell currently on pace to touch the football more than 400 times in 2017, it probably won’t be surprising to see rookie running back James Conner start lightening the starter’s load just a little bit more. Conner has 9 total rushes for 46 yards so far through the team’s first four games and has played just 18 total offensive snaps. Bell, by the way, has played 242 total offensive snaps entering Week 5 and that’s tops in the league when it comes to running backs.