LeVeon Bell won't be handed a job when the Steelers report to training camp Friday, nor is there any guarantee how many times he'll be handed the ball in the Sept. 8 opener against Tennessee. But while camp will start with a three-man competition at running back among Bell and holdovers Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, it could become a one-man competition if the 6-foot-1, 244-pound Bell shows he's everything the Steelers expect him to be.
Namely, big, adequately fast, durable and capable of playing on third down as well as first and second downs.
“I like him — a lot,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said of Bell, the Big Ten's leading rusher last season with 1,793 yards for Michigan State. “What stands out with him is what he can do on third down. And that's unusual because so many of these guys, that's the last thing they can do. But he can play on third down because he can block so well and catch.”
“We've got to get pads on and let it sort itself out,” OC Todd Haley said. What does Haley want to see from Bell? “Just the ability to grasp the entire offense, the entire package — from a protection standpoint, ball security, running the right route on pass plays,” Haley said. “The fundamentals have to be there.”
Redman looked to be in superb condition during the May and June practices, and with kick returner-running back LaRod Stephens-Howling also in camp, it could be Dwyer whose job is most in jeopardy unless Bell disappoints.
Bell is a power back that fits Pittsburgh’s style. He’s not a burner, but has shown good patience and can turn the corner. He’s pretty solid in the passing game as well. Assuming he wins the RB1 job, he’ll hold third- or fourth-round fantasy value as the lead back in Pittsburgh. He’ll have to beat out Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman for that privilege, but that shouldn't be too hard. HC Todd Haley said that Bell is a “three-down back," although the team signed LaRod Stephens-Howling, who has been pretty good in that role. The Steelers are obviously high on Bell and they reportedly aren't all that high on Dwyer or Redman, so the rookie should have every chance to start in 2013.