The Pittsburgh Steelers have a running back many consider to be the best in the NFL on their roster in Le'Veon Bell. After his incredible 2014 campaign it would be hard not to consider Bell to the best of the best at his position across the league. However, there were many who wondered if Bell's exceptional 2014 season was nothing more than a flash in the pan, waiting for him to stumble in 2015 as he served a 2-game suspension to start the season.
To say the least, Bell has done more than prove 2014 was a fluke, and all through just 5 games in 2015. Before I get ahead of myself let me back track to his past offseason. During our 32 scenarios in 32 days series leading up to training camp, there was an article written about Bell's potential production in 2015. Many readers suggested they didn't have high hopes for Bell to come close to his 2014 statistics based on his suspension to start the season. Hard not to disagree with such a sentiment, but Bell is defying the odds through Week 7 of the 2015 regular season.
Entering Week 8 of the season, Bell ranks 5th on the NFL rushing leaders list, and leads the AFC, with 511 rushing yards. All with two less games than his competitors. Devonta Freeman, who leads the league in rushing, has 28 more carries than Bell and just a 110 yard lead on No. 26 for the black and gold.
Bell's impressive 2015 numbers don't stop at yards gained. He leads the league in 20+ yard runs with 8, is second in yards per game with 102.2 and is tied for 8th in attempts so far this season.
All impressive statistics, but even more impressive when you realize his numbers are lower based on missing two games where he saw teammate DeAngelo Williams rush for 127 yards against the New England Patriots in Week 1, and rush for 77 yards and 3 touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2. Imagine what Bell's numbers would look like if he had been available in those two games.
Think back to Bell's rookie season. Hampered by a foot injury, which kept him out of the first three weeks of the season, he was able to rush for just 860 yards and average 3.5 yards a carry in his first year with the team. There weren't many proclaiming him the 'next big thing' after that season, but 2014 changed all that for Bell. He came into camp in the best physical condition of his life, and from there his career and production have taken off.
The biggest key to Bell continuing to cruise through 2015, and sky rocket up the rushing ranks, is the return of Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers' offense with Roethlisberger under center utilizes Bell in a unique way as both a runner and a receiver. In the only game the Steelers have seen Bell and Roethlisberger on the field together was against the St. Louis Rams in Week 3. In that game Bell rushed for 62 yards, but also had 70 yards receiving. Roethlisberger sprained his MCL in the second half of that game and is about to make his return to the lineup against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday.
Le'Veon Bell is a special talent, and he is proving it is more than his versatility which makes him the best at his position. His patience, power and speed all combined into one package is what have him ranked among the best in the game, all with two less games under his belt. To say the least, Bell has shown any doubter that 2014 was far from a fluke, but just the new norm for No. 26.