Punch Drunk Wonderland

Le’Veon Bell’s Return Is Coming at the Right Time for the Steelers

Via our friends at numberFire.

The much anticipated return of running back Le’Veon Bell is finally here for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Bell is able to rejoin the team for practice this week as they prepare for a Sunday Night Football matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs.

His return comes at a perfect time for a team that just got destroyed on the road by the Philadelphia Eagles. One of the Steelers’ fears is being realized, as they lack a true secondary receiving threat behind Antonio Brown with Martavis Bryant suspended for the season.

Eli Rogers is now hurt and is wearing a walking boot, and Markus Wheaton made his return from a shoulder injury against the Eagles only to drop three passes, including a potential touchdown. Second-year receiver Sammie Coates has been up-and-down through three weeks as a boom-or-bust deep threat.

Bell’s Immediate Impact

Bell will not only be a dynamic rushing threat to the Steelers’ offense but also a secondary receiving threat behind Brown.

It is impossible to ignore Bell’s receiving prowess, as he was the most prolific receiving back in the league in 2014 by our Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which indicates how many points above expectation a player adds to his team’s chances of scoring.

His 2014 Reception NEP mark of 64.26 was the fourth-highest among running backs since 2000.

After missing the first two games last season, also due to a drug-related suspension, Bell returned for Pittsburgh’s Week 3 matchup against the Rams. Bell rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and also caught 7 passes for 70 yards. He played 95% of the team’s offensive snaps, according toFantasy Data.

Expect more of the same this week against Kansas City.

Bell had success running against the Chiefs just last season. In the Steelers’ Week 7 loss in Arrowhead (with Landry Jones starting), Bell rushed for 121 yards on 17 carries in addition to 4 receptions for 16 yards.

Further, head coach Mike Tomlin, at his press conference on Tuesday afternoon, suggested that Bell wouldn’t be eased into the offense.

“We’re going to let practice be our guide in terms of that division of labor, but his level of conditioning is not a concern to us,” said Tomlin of Bell. “His level of conditioning is not a concern to us. A guy that is highly conditioned over a 12 month calendar. We have seen him every day, he has been a part of us, and he has been in the building. He is up to speed on what we are doing from a schematic standpoint and really in tune there.

“We will see how sharp he is physically once we get on the practice field. But rest assured, you are going to see Le’Veon Bell and probably a lot of him on Sunday.”

Fantasy owners should be salivating as Bell will resume his role as the Steelers’ “bell-cow” running back.

Opportunity Knocks

As good as DeAngelo Williams has been over the first few weeks of the season from a fantasy perspective, he will immediately return to his role as backup in Pittsburgh.

Among running backs with 20 or more rushes so far this season, Williams ranks 14th in Rushing NEP (0.49) among that group. There is clearly room for improvement in the Steelers backfield, which ranks 13th as a unit in Adjusted Rushing NEP per play.

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K. Smelser About K. Smelser
Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine...