The word 'elite' is often overused when referring to athletes. It also might be the most obscure line to try and walk when putting players in a specific class. What defines a 'good' player from 'elite'? The distinction typically comes down to personal opinion, but the debate continues to rage on.
When it comes to running backs in the NFL, there is little doubt Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell would be considered an 'elite' running back. After nearly compiling 2,200 all-purpose yards in 2014, Bell inserted himself into such a category with versatility and unique playmaking ability. He's good, even great, but is he the best running back in the NFL?
Teammate Darrius Heyward-Bey certainly thinks so. "I think we have the best running back in the game," Heyward-Bey told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.
Bell certainly has a case for such an honor after 2014, but has yet to prove he can duplicate such success as only a third-year player. Nonetheless, it isn't just his production which makes him stand out, but how he produces for the Steelers which makes him such a unique player and talent. As Bell rushed for over 1,300 yards last season, he also had over 800 yards receiving. His dual threat ability puts him among very unique company.
"He runs like a wide receiver in route running, very natural, very pluck, good hands, gets friendly to the ball, not drifting away from you or backing up. Ben (Roethlisberger) eventually came to the conclusion that I love that dude, I've got to use him." Quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner said about Bell.
There might be running backs who run between the tackles better than Bell, think of someone like Marshawn Lynch. There might be running backs who catch the ball out of the backfield and run routes better than Bell, think of a player like Matt Forte. However, you will be hard pressed to find a player who can run as effectively, and be as proficient in the passing game as Le'Veon Bell.
So, is Bell the best running back in the NFL? Steelers fans will naturally side with their player in the black and gold, but in all reality Bell is certainly inserting himself in the discussion of best in the game, even after just two years in the league.