Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell finished third in the NFL rushing in the 2017 season with 1291 yards. He was a workhorse player as not only did he league the league in snaps played by a running back, he also led in total carries. With that all noted, Bell and the Steelers running game struggled mightily during the 2017 on 1st and 10 runs, which is sort of amazing when you consider not only how talented Bell is, but the Pittsburgh offensive line as well.
On 1st and 10 runs during the 2017 season Bell was given the football a whopping 183 times and that amounted to 57% of his total carries. His 3.86 yards per carry average ranks very poorly when compared to the other 17 NFL running backs who registered 120 or more carries on that down and distance. In fact, only two of those other 17 running backs had a worse yards per carry average than Bell did.
Those rankings aside, Bell’s 1st and 10 successful run rate was just 31.1% and when compared to the other 38 NFL running backs who had 74 or more 1st and 10 carries during the regular season, 24 of them had better success rates then he registered. On top of the poor success rate that Bell registered on 1st and 10 carries during the reguklar season, 43.2% of his 183 total carries gained just 2 yards or less. And of those other 38 running backs I mentioned, 20 of them had lower percentages than Bell did.
So, were Bell’s poor 1st and 10 rushing numbers a byproduct of different halves? No, In fact, his success rate on 1st and 10 rushes in the first half of games was just 30.1% and his percentage of carries in which he gained 2 yards or less was 42.3% during the first 30 minutes of games.
In case you’re curious, Bell averaged 4.50 yards per carry on 1st and 10 runs during the 2016 regular season. His run success rate on that down and distance was a much more respectable 38.5% and his percentage of runs that gained 2 yards or less was also acceptable at 35.4%.
Was Bell’s drop off in 2017 a result of defenses finally catching up with his patient running style, poor play calling, poor offensive line blocking, or all of the above? That’s hard to tell without a full examination of the tape. With that said, new Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and offensive line coach Mike Munchak better find the root of that key running down during the offseason.