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Looking deeper into Le’Veon Bell’s slow start in 2017 and the potential reasons for it

How much of Bell’s supposedly slow start last season was perception, and how much was reality?

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The first part of this 3-part series showed the struggles the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense had against the seventh-ranked Cleveland run defense in Week 1. Barely escaping with a win, the Steelers’ Week-2 opponent was tougher yet. Week 2 saw the Black-and-gold host the Minnesota Vikings. This is another game in which Le’Veon Bell gets chastised for his slow start. Fans claim the slow start was due to him skipping offseason team workouts, training camp, and preseason games.

Would Bell still be rusty after two full weeks of practice?

Was Bell bothered by his offseason groin surgery that occurred in March?

Where are the kudos for the stout Vikings’ second-ranked run defense?

That’s up to the fans here at BTSC to squabble over.

This is where this 3-part series comes in. I went back and took video of each one of Bell’s carries and receptions during the first three weeks of the 2017 season for you to watch, and dissect.

Second up: Week 2 vs. Minnesota Vikings

The matchup was seen as a tough one on paper. The 2016 third-ranked defense struggled against the run which can be chalked up to a down year or one marred by injuries. That wasn’t the case in 2016 when the Vikings gave up 100 yards to only one running back. (Jonathan Stewart)

Bell had a workmanlike day with 27 carries for 87 yards. (3.2 YPC) This was well off Bell’s career average of 4.3 YPC. The vaunted Vikings’ rush defense gave up those yards to Bell but held 10 teams below that total for the season.

How did the Vikings defense hold up against top running backs in 2017?

Week 17: Jordan Howard 9-9 one reception for five yards. Terek Cohen 3-13 six receptions 14 yards.

Week 11: Todd Gurley 15-37 three receptions for 19 yards.

Week 1: Alvin Kamara 7-18 and four receptions for 20 yards. Mark Ingram 6-17

Divisional playoffs: Kamara 11-43 and 4 receptions for 62 yards. Mark Ingram 10-25 and one receptions for three yards.

These were some of the best running backs in the NFL in 2016. Clamps were applied and they had limited success.

Is your memory of games skewed by father time, media and/or fellow fans? Or has that photographic memory survived for 10 months? The only thing asked of you is to set aside your perceptions and be objective. The below video is all of the plays Bell was involved in rushing and receiving. (I believe a couple of plays called back via penalty are included.)

Disclaimer: Turn your volume down on your computer as it recorded audio from my computer. I sure like to use disclaimers, HA! I’m not an editing guru and this was my first attempt with brand new software. You’re all guinea pigs for future projects to come. I would like feedback on how to make the videos better.

A few notes about Bell’s actions during the game.

  • 3.2 YPC was his fourth-worst output of the season.
  • 22.2% of Bell’s plays resulted in a first down.
  • Nine of Bell’s carries came in the fourth quarter with a double-digit lead.
  • One rush was for negative yards while six others were for one yard or no gain.

After watching the video, how rusty did Bell appear? What specific plays stood out to you indicating he left yardage on the field? Did your perspective on the Browns’ run defense change? Pittsburgh starts off their season again with the Browns, so what would a disappointing stat-line look like? What would a successful one resemble? If Bell lights up the Browns in Week 1, will this put his 2017 Vikings game out of your mind?

Let us know in the comment section below!