Le'Veon Bell to Steelers: How Does Running Back Fit with Pittsburgh?
In the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Steelers improve on what was one of the league's worst running games in 2012 and one of the worst in their history. They select former Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell.
Bell may be a bit of a reach for the Steelers at No. 48, but it just goes to show you how highly they thought of him, taking him over guys like Alabama's Eddie Lacy and Wisconsin's Montee Ball.
In today's more pass-happy NFL, it can become a little complicated to truly gauge a running backs role with a given team. But when I watch Bell play at Michigan State, it's pretty clear what the Steelers have in store for the former Spartan.
He's going to be their feature back.
It may not come this year, but Pittsburgh has to think that Bell is the future back for this football team, taking him relatively early in the draft. Bell also had to catch the Steelers eye because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
With Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman already in place and the recent signing of LaRod Stephens-Howling, Pittsburgh will have a very crowded backfield to start the 2013 season. It's certainly going to be interesting to see how they use all of these guys.
If there's a back in this draft that embodies what the Steelers love in their running backs, it's Le'Veon Bell. At 6'2", 230 pounds, Bell runs with immense power and has one of the most powerful stiff arms you'll ever see.
But for a 230-pound man, Bell has quick feet and has been known to hurdle some defenders. He makes very strong cuts and gets downhill quickly. Bell doesn't dance at the line of scrimmage, which is a nice change for the Steelers.
Bell is more of a complete back than most people will give him credit for and should eventually become the lead ball-carrier in Pittsburgh. Given the big, mauling offensive line the Steelers have in place up front, I'd say Bell is a good fit in the Burgh.
As was the case with Jarvis Jones last night, it's very rare to see a Steelers rookie completely take over a starting role in their inaugural season. The last player to do so was Maurkice Pouncey.
Pittsburgh also has the luxury of having a deep backfield with Dwyer, Redman and the newly-acquired Stephens-Howling already in place. That's not good news for people who want to see Bell start right away.
But, the Steelers don't generally take guys early in drafts who won't contribute in some way in their rookie season. Bell won't be a returner and his special teams contributions will most likely be very limited. So what will Bell's role be in 2013?
One spot he could very easily come into camp occupying is as the third-down back. Bell comes in as probably the teams' best pass protector and receiver out of the backfield. Goal-line touches are another immediate opportunity for Bell in Pittsburgh. He had 33 touchdowns in three seasons with Michigan State.
As the season goes on, expect Bell to touch the ball more and more while Dwyer and Redman do battle for the rest of the carries. Realistically, Bell could carve out a respectable 600 yards and be in double-figures in touchdowns. Wouldn't shock me if he was the team's leading rusher by the end of 2013.
Initially, I gave the Steelers a C+ in the Grades/Analysis piece for the selection of Le'Veon Bell at No. 48 overall, but admittedly, that may have been a little premature. Bell was certainly a bit of a reach for the Steelers in the second round and they probably could have traded back and still got their guy.
But Bell is the type of back that fits what the Steelers like to do in their running game. He's got great size and power with quick, choppy feet and some pretty good athleticism to add. He can be an immediate impact player in the backfield in what becomes a relatively deep platoon for Pittsburgh.
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