2017 Midseason Player Evaluations: RB Le’Veon Bell

With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and there soon being little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.

The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first eight games with a 6-2 record, tied for the best in the AFC along with the Patriots and the Chiefs, the latter of whom they have already beaten.

The offense has not lived up to its billing for the most part this year, though the running game has had its moments. Defensively, the sacks have come, and the secondary has improved, but there will always be things to work on.

Player: Le’Veon Bell, RB

I think it’s rather something that Le’Veon Bell actually got off to a slow start to the 2017 regular season, and yet is just three yards outside of first place in terms of rushing yardage. Now, to be fair, they do work him like a dog. He is averaging 24.2 rushing attempts per game, already with 194 on the season.

Only four other players are averaging at least 20 rushing attempts per game, while only Ezekiel Elliot is within even two carries per game. And he actually averages the fourth-most yards per game among those with a sizable number of rushing attempts.

Bell is currently averaging under four yards per carry, which tends to be viewed as the benchmark number. At least four yards per carry is respectable. He averaged nearly five yards per carry in each of the past two seasons, and 4.7 yards per carry the year before, so this is a fairly notable decline.

His performance on Sunday as actually his least efficient of the season, taking 25 rushing attempts to accumulate 76 yards on the ground, which is just a hair over three yards per carry.

But he has also had three big rushing games in the past five weeks, all in wins, totaling 144 over the Ravens, 179 over the Chiefs, and 134 over the Bengals. Though the win over the Chiefs is the only game in which he has averaged over 4.1 yards per attempt.

As a receiver, he has also struggled with efficiency, averaging only 6.3 yards per attempt. He got a boost following a big 42-yard reception two weeks ago, but overall has not been the factor he has been in the past, on pace for just 438 receiving yards.

He has also fumbled twice this season, losing one just on the cusp of the red zone against the Lions on Sunday.

On the other hand, he is on pace for 10 rushing touchdowns, which would be a new career-high, his previous best being eight, though his highest touchdown total in a season is actually 11 including receiving scores.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Burky

    6-2 record is nice at the midway point, but we’re still not happy? This isn’t like playing video games. Players on the other teams are trying to win too. We keep talking about losing to the Bears and Jags as a bad thing. I look at it as those two games are about the best ones we could pick to lose. One NFC team and one AFC out of division. Losing to two NFC teams would have been better. But Steelers are in a good spot. We know they can beat the Chiefs and are capable of beating anybody on any day. I’ll take that and enjoy the bye week.

  • StillersInThe6

    This is just faulty thinking, and why fans are shocked when we get kicked out of the playoffs every year (many times while being favored to win). We’ve had one of the weakest schedules in the NFL. The teams we’ve beaten have been either garbage, or without key players (eg. Vikings without Sam Bradford). We’ve still had a couple big wins (KC and DET come to mind) but our offense has been brutal in the redzone in both games. We’re just simply NOT going to get to a SB by kicking fgs all game. I love what our defense has shown us to this point, but forget the record for a second, I just haven’t seen the offense perform to a level that gives me confidence into December/January when the games get exponentially more important.

    The counter argument would be, ok we’re still gelling and will get better – well other teams will too. I need to see more from our offense to inspire more confidence for the post season.

  • Chris92021

    Midseason grade for Le’Veon Bell: A. The games he gets 25 or more carries? Steelers are 5-0. When he gets less than 25, the Steelers are 1-2 (lone win against the Browns). Sure, I would love to see Conner and Watson get more carries in the last 8 regular season games to take the load off Bell, who has suffered an injury that caused him to miss games (or most of games) in EVERY SINGLE season of his career (all 4 years before this season). Bell does make a good point about how he does not take big hits constantly and he is willing to run out of bounds so those 25+ carries aren’t as taxing. However, it would be nice to see Conner learn how to pass protect and Watson get a package of plays we can run for him.

  • falconsaftey43

    AFC teams with only 2 losses.

    Steelers

    Chiefs are 6-2.
    Vikings are 6-2 (4-2 With Keenum btw)
    BALT 4-4
    CIN 3-4
    Lions 3-4
    CLE 0-8 (obviously)
    JAX 4-3
    CHI 3-5
    I’d say Chiefs and Vikings are really good teams. 2-0

    Patriots
    Chiefs 6-2
    Saints 5-2
    Texans 3-4
    Panthers 5-3
    Bucs 2-5
    Jets 3-5
    Falcons 4-3
    Chargers 3-5
    I’d say Chiefs, Saints, Panthers are really good teams. 1-2

    Chiefs
    Patriots 6-2
    Eagles 7-1
    Chargers 3-5
    Redskins 3-4
    Texans 3-4
    Steelers 6-2
    Raiders 3-5
    Broncos 3-4
    I’d say Patriots, Eagles, Steelers are really good teams. 2-1

    Buffalo
    Jets 3-5
    Panthers 5-3
    Broncos 3-4
    Falcons 4-3
    Bengals 3-4
    Bucs 2-5
    Raiders 3-5
    I’d say Panthers are a really good team, 0-1.

    So the other 6-2 teams have each played “good” teams and lost at least one. We’ve played 2 and won both. Bills played one and lost it. I wouldn’t say the Steelers have faced a significantly easier schedule than the other top teams in the AFC right now.

  • NCSteel

    I realize his running style is suited to him not taking as many punishing hits as say, a Marshawn Lynch type of RB but I still have concerns about the cumulative effect as the season wears on.
    Trouble is, Conner is not up to snuff in pass protection yet and Ben, I no longer believe can carry this team,
    He would be better as a game manager so it’s on Bell and his 25
    Plus touches per game.
    Let’s hope he has conditioned his body to it’s maximum efficiency cause it looks like we’re gonna need it.

  • pittfan

    I love it when you get all “facty”.

  • pittfan

    Bell started the season with a C- and has accumulated some A/A+ performances. His early struggles correlated to his holdout and the O-line’s own slow start. As they gel, he has begun to come alive.
    B thus far, and on the rise. Gotta get him going in the passing game…

  • falconsaftey43

    I’d give him a B so far this year. Some dominant games (ypc hasn’t been there, but when you’re offense is running so much through the run game because pass game isn’t there, I think that’s understandable the ypc will be low). He’s done really well when he’s had blocking, sometimes the blocking hasn’t really been there. Would like to see him used in the passing game a little more actively, not just on dump offs.

  • Matthew Marczi

    This is not about the team. It’s a player evaluation, not a team evaluation.

  • Charles Mullins

    Id put Jax and The Bears into good teams and Cinci and Baltimore into above average. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jax won their division and if Balt or Cinci got a wild card.

  • StillersInThe6

    What quality/great team has Keenum beaten to make you think the Vikings are a really good team?? I’ll save you the trouble, none. We’ve played one “great” team and we struggled mightily to score points. I’m just not confident yet, and I’m not sure how others can watch this offense and feel differently.

  • Bob

    They will run the wheels off Bell, then tag him again if he has a good enough season. If they bring him back and he doesn’t miss any games, he will have about 900 carries over this year and next. With receptions, he’ll have about 1,000 touches over 2017-18. He’ll have roughly 2,500 career touches by then.Then you let him go having gotten the bulk of his good years. With good overall health, figure 3,000 touches+/- before a back starts to really go in the tank fast.