When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell with the 48th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft many expected that he would eventually take over as the team’s starting running back. It appears we won’t have to wait long for that to happen.
Bell was running with Pittsburgh’s first-team already on Monday and appears to already have a stranglehold on the team’s No. 1 running back duties. While the 20-year-old rookie is certainly expected to make an impact, he will have to compete with Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer who will certainly try to beat him out for carries. But Dwyer is reportedly not a lock to make the roster and Redman has had three years to take over as the team’s top back and hasn’t done it yet.
Bell is 6-1 and 244 pounds, so he clearly has the size to take the pounding of a top back in the NFL. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield and the Steelers reportedly want to play him on third downs immediately. During his final season at Michigan State, Bell rushed for 1,740 yards and 12 touchdowns on 382 carries. He also caught 32 passes for 167 yards and another score.
The fact that the Steelers are willing to throw Bell in with the first team immediately is a huge deal this early in training camp. Pittsburgh ranked 26th in the NFL in rushing yards last season (1,537) and 28th in yards per carry (3.7). The Steelers also ranked 27th with just eight rushing touchdowns. Clearly the backfield needed an upgrade.
Take note of Bell’s status if you play fantasy football, since it looks like he will be heavily in the rotation early and – if he stays healthy – for the entire season.