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It did not take long before we all realized that Bell would be the Steelers' top running back. Tomlin began to treat him like a starter in training camp, so it was no surprise when he locked down the No. 1 role early in the season.
Injuries resulted in a slow start to Bell’s career, but he picked up his play as the season progressed. He would finish the year with 860 yards and eight touchdowns. While he only averaged 3.5 yards per carry, Brad Evans of Yahoo Sports reported that Bell did force missed tackles on 35.8 percent of his carries—which compares favorably with Reggie Bush and Matt Forte.
With a better understanding of the offense and an improved offensive line under Munchak's coaching, it is almost certain that Bell will increase his average yards per carry next season.
Besides his ability as a runner, Bell is such a threat because he is such a good receiver out of the backfield. Last season, he had 45 receptions for 399 yards, including five for 20 yards or more.
He should once again be a major contributor on both the ground and in the air, though with a reduced workload with Blount’s presence in the backfield. Bell told Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he is fine with that.
"When he's in the game, it's going to bring a different look than I bring. It's going to be showing the defense a lot of different looks. I'm excited about it. I definitely can't wait to see what he can do when we get the pads on."
When it comes to sharing the load, Bell will lose some carries, but let’s not get carried away. He had 289 touches as a rookie in 13 games played. That is an average of 22.23 touches (18.77 rushes and 3.46 receptions) per game.
Those numbers should not change much this season. Ideally, the Steelers will run Bell 20 times per game and throw him the ball three or four times. Over the course of an entire season, that will translate to about 320 carries and upward of 64 receptions.
Those numbers may seem a bit high, but that is considering that Bell should take on a more integral role in the offense now that he is in his second season. If he even approaches these numbers, Bell will be one of the most productive backs in the league.
Combined with Blount, the Steelers will have one of the best running back duos in the league and a legitimate chance at developing maybe not a top-five, but a top-10 rushing attack in 2014.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of ESPN.com, and all roster information is courtesy of Steelers.com.