Le’Veon Bell – Is he as good as we think he is?
With the 48th selection in the 2013 NFL Entry Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select- Le’Veon Bell RB Michigan State. With that selection the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted their running back of the present and future.
At this point, the entire fantasy community knows Le’Veon Bell has not played a snap in the 2018 season. Bell has decided that instead of reporting to the Pittsburgh Steelers and signing his franchise tender he would prefer to forgo $855,000/week to prove a point. At this point, I am not sure what point he is attempting to make. To date, Bell has missed 7 games this season, and the Steelers have replaced Bell in the offense with second-year RB James Conner. This is not the first time the Steelers have had to replace Bell in their starting lineup. Since 2013, the Steelers have had to find a starting RB in parts of all of Bell’s 6 seasons except for 2014.
During the 2013 preseason, Bell suffered a Lisfranc sprain in the preseason and was forced to sit out the first three games of the regular season. He finished the season with 219.8 fantasy points and ranked as RB15. The Steelers filled the hole of their rookie RB with three different back, Felix Jones, Jonathan Dwyer, and Isaac Redman.
Bell - 2013
The three-headed monster of Dwyer, Jones, and Redman combined to average 43 rushing yards, 12 receiving yards per game. In the 13 games, Bell appeared in he averaged 66 rushing yards and 31 receiving yards. Bell also contributed .61 TD/game, while the trio failed to score. Bell clearly is the Steelers best option at this point and the future is bright as we head into 2014.
In the offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed LeGarrette Blount to a 2-year contract. Blount would appear in 11 games and was released after leaving the field prior to the conclusion of the Steelers game vs. Tennessee.
The Steelers’ backfield belonged to Le’Veon Bell. Bell started all 16 of the Steelers contests and finished as the #1 RB in PPR scoring with 370.5 points. There was no reason to start any other back as Bell rushed for 1361 yards, caught 83 passes for 854 yards and he scored a total of 11 TD’s.
After being arrested with then teammate LeGarrette Blount on DUI and marijuana possession charges in 2014, Bell was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the 2015 regular season. Bell’s suspension was reduced to two games following a successful appeal. As a result of the suspension, the Steelers signed De’Angelo Williams to a two-year contract.
Bell - 2015
Williams started the first two games of the season and took over once again as the lead back after Bell suffered a season-ending torn MCL in week 9. Bell was limited to 6 games and finished with 111.2 fantasy points. Bell was RB46. Williams started 10 games in 2015 (played the majority in the week Bell was injured), and parts of the Steelers other 6 contests. Williams finished with 233.4 fantasy points. Williams was RB4 in 2015.
Bell was officially suspended for the first three games of the 2016 regular season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The original suspension was four games but was reduced to three on appeal and as a part of a settlement between the league and the NFL Player’s Association.
Bell - 2016
In addition to missing the first three games of the season, Bell was also rested in week 17. As a result, Bell appeared in 12 games and finished as RB3 with 317.4 fantasy points. DeAngelo Williams started the three games in which Bell was suspended as well as week 17 in place of an inactive Bell.
After failing to come to an agreement on a contract extension, The Pittsburgh Steelers placed the franchise tag on Le’Veon Bell. Bell remained away from the club through the duration of training camp.
Bell - 2017
Bell ended up appearing in 15 games in 2017 missing only the final game of the season. Bell finished the year with 341.6 fantasy points and as RB2. Stevan Ridley started week 17 for the Steelers after being signed a few weeks earlier.
On January 11, 2018, Bell said that if the Steelers franchise tagged him again, he would consider sitting out for the year or retiring from the NFL. In 2016 he reportedly turned down a two-year deal worth $30 million. Bell said he was not concerned about making the most money possible, but instead wanted to be paid in relation with his value to the team, reportedly saying, “I just want to be valued where I’m at” and “Just get the numbers straight, exactly where we want them. I’m not going to settle for anything. I know what I do and what I bring to the table. I’m not going out here getting the ball 400 times if I’m not getting what I feel I’m valued at.”
On March 6, 2018, the Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bell for the second straight year worth $14.5 million. Bell refused to sign the franchise tag and has not attended any team activities since contract negotiations stalled on July 16. Bell has missed the first eight regular-season games and $855,000 per week as a result.
Bell - 2018
James Conner has been thrust into the starting role for the Steelers in 2018. Thru the Steelers first 7 games of the season, he has posted 179.2 fantasy points and sits as RB4 in PPR scoring. With Conner as their starting the Steelers RB, are averaging 8 more points/game and have a higher 3rd down % (43.2 to 36.0) and higher red zone % (75.0 to 42.3) than they had thru 7 games last year w/ Le’Veon Bell at RB.
Bell -Breakdown Avg.
It was rumored that Bell might report as soon as the trade deadline passed, but that has not happened. As we enter week 9, the Steelers reportedly haven’t had contact with Bell or his agent and have no idea what the RB’s plans are for the remainder of the season. The new millstone date for Bell is week 10. In theory, he needs to report to the Steelers before Week 10 if he wants to ensure he’ll become a free agent in 2019. If Bell doesn’t report by Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET following Week 10, the Steelers would be able to use the franchise tag on Bell again in 2019. At this point there are three potential options; Bell could report and sign his tender and collect his $855,000/week, he could sit the remainder of the season, or the Steelers could decide to rescind the franchise tag. I have no idea what he does, but personally, I believe he has played his last snap in a Steelers uniform.
Le’Veon is clearly the best option for the Steelers. But is he the best option at 14 Million a year or more? The drop off in production is there but it’s minimal and manageable. The kicker for me in reviewing these numbers is the Steelers record in games that Le’Veon has missed. The Steelers have a 15-6-1 record in games Le’Veon has missed since the start of the 2015 season. Is Le’Veon as good as we think he is, or is the Steelers system what makes these running backs so productive? I am not sure what the answer is, but I am guessing that we will find out in 2019 when Bell suits up in a different uniform.
For now, we all just sit and wait……