NFL teams are now about a week into summer training camps, and many players are finally given the chance to earn starting spots on their respective ball clubs. The same can be said for Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Le’Veon Bell.
After being drafted in the second round of this year’s draft, many predicted (including myself) that Bell would be the starting running back for the Steelers at the beginning of the regular season. Bell was the leading rusher in the Big Ten in 2012 with over 1,700 yards, and could be the breath of fresh air that Pittsburgh needs in the backfield.
Last season, the Steelers’ ground attack was ranked 26th in the league, and never had one reliable feature back. Running backs Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall (who is now with the Arizona Cardinals) all were starters at least once in 2012. Dwyer, Redman and Mendenhall barely combined for 1,200 yards on the ground.
Hopefully, Bell can reach that total by himself. However, in order to be called Pittsburgh’s feature back, Bell will have to show that he can do more than just run the ball. Picking up blitzes, learning the playbook and protecting the ball will be the other attributes that Bell will have to display before being dubbed the starter.
Bell has already helped his chances in the first few days of training camp. During drills, Bell turned three short passes into long gains. Maybe that will help boost him out of his current spot on the depth chart. Currently, Redman is taking reps with the first team, while Bell is working behind Redman, Dwyer and Baron Batch.
It’s apparent that Bell has his work cut out for him. Going from fourth string to first string is a tall order to fill for any running back. If Bell shows that he is just as reliable in pass protection, receiving and protecting the football as he is in rushing, then we just might see the rookie running back in the starting lineup come Week 1.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google+