Top NFL Rookie of Week 16: Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell
By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
December 24, 2013
Each Tuesday of the NFL season NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang will identify his Rookie of the Week. To qualify, the first-year professional player must have played a significant role in a competitive NFL game, demonstrating not just flashes of talent but the potential to emerge as a legitimate long-term standout. The player's draft status -- whether as a former first round pick or undrafted free agent -- does not apply.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin reiterated his preference for his own rookie running back, Le'Veon Bell, over any other back available in the 2013 NFL draft in the days leading up to his club traveling to Green Bay to play the Packers, and their prized rookie, Eddie Lacy.
If the heightened pressure bothered Bell, he certainly didn't show it in Lambeau, rushing for 124 yards on 26 carries, each career-highs.
Lacy, currently in a neck and neck battle with San Diego wideout Keenan Allen for Rookie of the Year honors, demonstrated the blend of vision, power and underrated athleticism that has helped him put up better numbers over the season than Bell, rushing for 84 yards and two scores against the Steelers.
On this day, however, it was Bell's consistent grinding -- and game-winning score with just 1:25 remaining -- that pushed the Steelers over the top in the 38-31 victory.
Like Lacy, Bell is a physical back with impressive size, burst and agility at 6-foot-1, 244 pounds. Though he wasn't able to consistently demonstrate it against the Packers, one of the primary reasons why Bell earned higher grades from a number of clubs was his soft hands out of the backfield. Bell caught one pass against the Packers (five yards) but was a target on several others. His ability to remain on the field on third down and draw defenders helped Ben Roethlisberger pick apart Green Bay's secondary off of play-action.
While Bell hasn't been as dominant over the course of the season as Lacy, it is important to put his season-long numbers in perspective. Despite missing the first three games of the year, Bell has accumulated 1,162 all-purpose yards for the Steelers, joining Franco Harris and Bam Morris as the only two running backs in Steelers' history to topple the 1,000 yardage mark as a rookie. Bell, in fact, is within 73 yards of overtaking Harris as the most productive rookie running back in Steelers history.