Ben Roethlisbeger loves having Le'Veon Bell at his disposal, make no mistake about it.
But Big Ben also wants his prized running back to avoid being "run into the ground."
Roethlisberger said as much during his interview with 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday. Roethlisberger said that while Bell is "the best all-around back in the game," Big Ben also showed concern over Bell's workload. Bell has 281 touches through 12 games this season, and has amassed 1,689 total yards.
"I don't know of a running back since I've been here that has basically been able to play every single snap, but you do have to be careful," Roethlisberger said. "I hope we don't run him into the ground if you will, but it's that stretch of the year where everyone's going to give it everything they have. He probably wants to be in there every single play because that's the type of player he is."
Roethlisberger went on to say that one way to limit Bell's touches would be to increase the workload of rookie Dri Archer. The Kent State product has just nine carries for 41 yards thus far.
Conversely, Coach Mike Tomlin has no problem with Bell's workload. Tomlin said the durability Bell displayed at Michigan State was among the reasons why the Steelers drafted him in the second round of the '13 draft. Per ESPN, Bell had the most carries among FBS backs during his final season at Michigan State, toting the rock 382 times for 1,793 yards and 12 touchdowns.
"He's a highly conditioned guy, he's a mentally tough guy. Personally I think he's built for it. He's excited about having an opportunity to do that for us," Tomlin said per a story with ESPN. "Obviously, during his time here he proved that he is capable of doing that on an NFL stage."
Roethlisberger also expressed disappointment in his performance in a 35-32 loss to the Saints last Sunday, while also showing optimism heading into this Sunday's game at Cincinnati.
"I just didn't play well and for no rhyme or reason," Big Ben said. "I was just disappointed that I didn't make all of the throws that I wanted to make, and you've got to win the home games. (The season's) not over yet. I think that was kind of the mood yesterday. We still control our destiny."
Now, back to the topic of Bell and his workload. Personally, I don't think Bell has been overworked. He's averaging 18 carries per game, one carry lower than his average during his rookie year. Almost a quarter of his touches are receptions, meaning that he's typically going up against linebackers and defensive backs in the open field and not being hit by one or two defensive linemen.
I do think the Steelers need to find an adequate backup to diversify their rushing attack - if anything just to give defenses another wrinkle to worry about. That will also benefit the Steelers when Bell needs to be rested occasionally during games to ensure that he stays fresh for the duration of the season.