Before we get to Le'Veon Bell's fantasy status, let's start with a stat that will terrify his pessimistic owners, but will reassure the more optimistic fantasy players among us, about his lack of competition for touches in the Pittsburgh backfield.
Here goes: 23 players have rushed for more yards than the 151 yards on the ground posted by the Pittsburgh Steelers as a team this season. One of those players is quarterback Terrelle Pryor (198 rushing yards).
Ouch. Don't expect Jonathan Dwyer, Felix Jones or Isaac Redman to vulture much production from Bell over the course of the season. The Bell, indeed, tolls for all three.
Of course, it remains to be seen how much value he'll have in Week 4. Head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed Bell will make his season debut on Sunday at legendary Wembley Stadium in London, England. From Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
#Steelers Tomlin, asked if Bell will start: He's going to play, yes— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) September 24, 2013
Bell will be a full participant in practice, but his week will dictate his playing time on Sunday, according to the team's official Twitter account:
No restrictions this week for Heath. Cortez Allen will practice. Le'Veon "perked" up dramatically last week. He'll be full in practice.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 24, 2013
Practice will determine how much Le'Veon Bell will play on Sunday - Tomlin— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 24, 2013
Obviously, Bell is the only Pittsburgh running back that should be rostered. But can he be trusted as a fantasy starter in Week 4?
Let's assume he practices without issue. While you have to project some rust, Bell will return with a very favorable matchup against the Minnesota Vikings defense.
Disregarding the performance from the Cleveland Browns last week—Willis McGahee led the team with eight carries just days after being signed—the Vikings allowed a total of 58 fantasy points to opposing running backs in standard-scoring leagues during the first two weeks.
In deeper leagues you can flex him this week, though monitor his status closely
Still, over the course of the season, it's hard to predict big things for Bell. In fact, it's hard to imagine him being much more than a flex play at all this year.
For one, the offensive line has been pretty terrible, certainly not aided by the loss of center Maurkice Pouncey for the season with a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. While Bell should improve an anemic running attack, he alone can't overcome a mediocre offensive line.
Should the Steelers be waiting till Sunday to figure out their 5 best OL? Kelvin Beachum is now in at LT. (Yes, they're rotating tackles)— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) September 23, 2013
Given how few quality backs have emerged for fantasy owners this year, Bell is certainly a good player to have available. But on the flip side, given the Steelers woeful running game, don't expect him to be a top-15 option at the position the rest of the way.
Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy lineup questions, make ill-fated NFL predictions and tweet cheesy jokes. I can't promise cheerleaders.