Le'Veon Bell Needs to Earn Must-Start Fantasy Football Status

Jesse ReedCorrespondent ISeptember 27, 2013

Aug 12, 2013; Latrobe, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) participates during training camp drills at Saint Vincent College. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Le'Veon Bell could become the next great Pittsburgh Steelers running back, but fantasy football owners should take a wait-and-see approach before starting the rookie running back. 

After missing the first three games of the season with a Lisfranc sprain, Bell is set to take the field for the first time as a pro when the Steelers take on the Minnesota Vikings in London on Sunday.

He's listed as probable on Pittsburgh's official injury report, and though the Steelers haven't confirmed it, Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review expects the rookie to start:

Bell was the second running back selected in the 2013 NFL draft behind only Giovani Bernard, who has been a dynamic playmaker for the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers picked him up in the second round—No. 48 overall. 

A prolific rusher in college at the Michigan State, Bell is a prototypical power back who measures in at 6'1" and 230 pounds. He combines impressive power with decent speed and better-than-average footwork in the hole.

Sounds just like what Pittsburgh needs right now, but it's too early to buy into Bell as a must-start player in your fantasy league. 

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Maurkice Pouncey #53 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is tended to by medical staff in the first half during the game against the Tennessee Titans on September 8, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Steelers haven't been able to generate a consistent rushing attack while Bell has been recovering from his foot injury. All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey was lost for the year when he tore his ACL and MCL in Week 1, and Pittsburgh's offensive line was already a question mark before he went down. 

With Pouncey out of the lineup, the Steelers have become one of the most one-dimensional offenses in the NFL. Felix Jones and Jonathan Dwyer have led a rushing attack that has only been able to gain 51.7 yards per game, which is the third-worst total in the league. 

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 16:  Running back Felix Jones #23 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs the ball against strong safety George Iloka #43 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on September 16, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Bell is a nifty runner, but chances are he's going to have a difficult time finding open running lanes playing behind Pittsburgh's line—just like Jones and Dwyer. 

If you're still not convinced you should keep Bell on your bench in Week 4, then listen to what Roethlisberger had to say about his rookie running back, as noted by Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Honestly, I have no idea with him. You can't get a read on him. One day, he's practicing, one day, he's not; one day, he's going hard, the next day, he's not. I wish I could...Le'Veon is a rookie, I don't know him quite well enough yet. But if he can come back and help us, we'll take him.

There's no doubt Bell has the physical attributes—when healthy, and when his offensive line is making holes—to be an extremely effective back for the Steelers. 

But at this point, nobody really knows what to expect from the young man in Week 4. Foot injuries are notoriously pesky, and it shouldn't shock anyone if he doesn't even finish out the game against the Vikings. 

There should be safer options available to you for your fantasy football team. If you have any other players you can count on, then keep Bell on your bench this weekend. 

That said, if Bell is available on your waiver wire and you have need of solid backup, then by all means pick him up. If he starts blowing up every week, then you've got yourself a steal. 

 

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