Pittsburgh Steelers must get Le’Veon Bell involved in passing game

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Oct 22, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le Veon Bell (26) gets a block from offensive tackle Allejandro Villanueva (78) after a hand-off from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) against the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 22, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) gets a block from offensive tackle Allejandro Villanueva (78) after a hand-off from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) against the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few weeks, Le’Veon Bell has started to look like the peak Bell we were used to seeing. However, as the Steelers head come out of the bye week, there is one area in which the team needs to begin trying to get him involved in more. They need to get him going in the passing game.

Pittsburgh Steelers must get Le’Veon Bell involved in passing game

This season, Bell is on pace for 70 receptions for 438 yards, 6.2 yards per reception. Last year, in four fewer games, he had 75 receptions for 616 yards, 8.2 per catch, and two touchdowns. On a per game average, Bell is averaging 4.4 receptions for 27 yards this season. Last year he averaged 9.4 receptions for 77 yards per game. That is a big discrepancy.

The team has to target Le’Veon Bell more. They have found their identity heading into the bye week. However, adding in this passing wrinkle will only play into what this team is trying to become. The Steelers know with their quarterback that they are best off winning with short passing and running the football. Throwing to Bell out of the backfield makes the defensive front have to hesitate before selling out on Bell on the run. Bell can also fake as a pass protector, get the defender to purposefully evade him and squirt free for open passes.

What is interesting to note is that the team really isn’t even drawing up plays for Bell in the passing game. Most of his receptions have come when the play breaks down, or when Ben Roethlisberger is forced to check down to Bell. This is also likely why his yards per reception is not great.

The team needs to draw up plays for Bell to catch the ball in space. Last season, the team was not afraid to empty the backfield and put Bell outside as a receiver. One of Bell’s two touchdown receptions in 2016 came when he was lined up as a receiver.

This season, he has only been targeted when lineup up outside of the backfield six times. They completed four passes. These are easy completions, and situations that the team could look to on a first down to throw the defensive personnel into a predicament. It would set up short second downs and would be as effective as an efficient run play.

 

The team should also be looking to get him space with momentum. They have done this a few times so far this year, but need to add more into the play calling as the season goes on.

This is another simple play that can catch the defense off guard and substitute for the running game. They get Bell’s momentum going, and then it is a quick flick and boom, he is off in space.

Below is the perfect counter to a blitz. It is timed out perfectly and Bell is able to get the ball in space with lead blockers ahead of him. This is an easy play to keep the defense honest.

Le’Veon Bell is ready to thrive in this passing game. It has shown spurts. However, the only reason it has not been more prominent is that it has not been called more often. Bell in the short passing game can open himself up in the running game and the rest of the offense as a whole. The Steelers should look in the mirror and see what has worked in this area and repeat it over the second half of the season.


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