It's possible that if Le & # 39; Veon Bell was the kind of runner who could change a game with a single race or define a team's attack with its persistent beating, it could be worth the impertinent tweets and the pay-me-up. now ethics and multiple suspensions and injuries too frequent and constant tardiness and even the $ 14.6 million that is likely to cost in 2018 under the NFL franchise tag.
Bell is not that player, however.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers want to find their way back to the Super Bowl, they must accept that their addiction to Bell's skill set is not worth the exorbitant amount of money they receive from them.
MORE: Steelers partners press for Tomlin to be shot needs a history lesson
Bell excels at every responsibility that requires a backup: block, run, receive. He is extraordinarily productive. There is no dispute this. There were some better, never, in the art of picking up the bombing. He rushed for 1,291 yards in 2017, and caught 85 passes for 655 yards. It would be almost impossible for any player to replace those numbers. But NFL football is not fantasy football. The games are not won on paper, otherwise the Steelers would not have lost their postseason game with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Now, let's talk about what Bell does not do in the field.
Does not break open games. His longest carry in 15 games this season was 27 yards, and he only had three runs over 20 yards. Among the best defenses in the league, only 34-year-old Frank Gore of Indianapolis had a shorter season, and 26 backups had more runs of more than 20 yards.
Although Bell is often said to possess such exceptional receiver abilities he could operate as an additional wide receiver, he rarely functions in that role. His receptions consisted mainly of checks by Ben Roethlisberger and produced an average gain of 7.7 yards. Between the backs that caught at least 50 passes, that number tied for eighth place.
The most damning, however, is that Bell does not impose his will on the defense. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry in 2017, tied for 10th among the 15 best pitchers in the league. It took 321 times, and 15 percent of those attempts were without gain or negative yards. Add those that produced less than 3 yards and subtract your three 1-yard touchdowns and six converted first-downs, and the proportion of failed runs increases to 39 percent.
MORE: 17 incidents that have inflamed Bengals vs. The Steelers' rivalry
This was particularly evident in the two biggest games of the season, when a runner who is already paid almost 50 Percent more than anyone else in his position – and he demands even more – was overtaken by a rookie and played a draw for a veteran who has been cut twice and is in his fourth NFL team.
Leonard Fournette of Jacksonville defeated the Steelers for 109 yards and three touchdowns in his AFC divisional game last Sunday. When the Steelers welcomed New England for their big showdown at Heinz Field in December, Dion Lewis averaged 5.2 yards per carry and prevented the Steelers from shining all their defensive attention to quarterback QB Tom Brady.
In those games, Bell was employed as he runs on 22 total down-first carries, the down in which the Steelers ideally want to use their supposedly overwhelming run game to prepare Roethlisberger in advantageous passing situations. Except that Bell did not comply in those circumstances. It was by 2 or fewer yards in 13 of those attempts. When the Steelers relied on their running game to win first, they lost almost 60 percent of the time against the Jags and Pats.
MORE: Jacksonville Bakery Sends Ballot Box to Roethlisberger
Television commentators marvel at Bell's "patient" style, but his lack of lean body while running makes it easier to knock down at the point of attack. His vertical style minimizes the punishment he absorbs, but also makes him less able to get extra yards.
After rejecting a multi-year contract during the offseason that would have entrenched him as the league's highest paid, Bell said he would consider staying out of the 2018 season if he was assigned the franchise tag for the second consecutive season. . He launched this threat the week of Jacksonville's postseason game, and reportedly arrived late the day before the trip and the game itself.
These solos would be excellent reasons for the Steelers to allow Bell to pursue his fortune elsewhere. Pittsburgh could then prepare a back willing to advance for hard yards and, ideally, be able to remain in the field as a third-level safety valve. The money needed to keep Bell would be much better spent fixing the defense with leaks, which allowed 81 points in the team's last two postseason games; of the four finalists of the conference, no team invested even $ 5 million in its best position.
It makes more sense football not to devote such a disproportionate portion of the salary cap next season to a player who too often puts the Steelers behind the chains. They have been extremely patient with Le & # 39; Veon Bell. They have paid their high price long enough.