Stats & Info: Le'Veon Bell

Ravens-Steelers AFC wild-card preview

December, 31, 2014

Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsBen Roethlisberger and the Steelers face a familiar foe Saturday.
The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers will meet for the third time this season, after the teams split their first two meetings.

The Ravens and Steelers have split 32 regular-season meetings going back to the 1999 season. They have combined for four of the last five AFC North titles. Each team won on their home field this season by the same 20-point margin.

If it’s close late, both quarterbacks have shown the ability to thrive under the pressure of key moments this season. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco ranked second in the NFL in fourth-quarter total QBR (86.2). Ben Roethlisberger ranked third (83.3).

The Steelers do have one historical advantage. They are 3-0 in the playoffs against the Ravens.

Keys for a Ravens win
On offense the Ravens will want to establish Justin Forsett, who led all running backs with an average of 5.4 yards per attempt this season. He’ll probably look to go between the tackles, where he averaged 5.2 yards per rush, second best in the NFL. The Steelers' defense is reasonably equipped to handle that. It allowed 4.0 yards per carry between the tackles, 10th best in the NFL.

Flacco will look to frequently target the Smiths -- Steve and Torrey. Flacco completed a career-best 61 percent of passes that targeted wide receivers this season.

Flacco excelled with the deep ball during the Ravens' Super Bowl run two seasons ago, completing 48 percent of his passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield with four touchdown passes. But in the last two seasons, he’s completing only 26 percent of such throws.

Perhaps this is a day in which he can recapture some of his past magic. The Steelers allowed opponents to complete 54 percent of passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield, the highest percentage by any team in the last five seasons.

But how far the Ravens go will likely be determined by their defense. The Ravens allowed 88.3 yards rushing per game this season (fourth fewest in NFL) and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in their last 26 games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

The Ravens also had 49 sacks this season, tied for the second most in franchise history.

Red zone defense is typically Baltimore’s forte. The Ravens allowed opponents to convert only 43 percent of their red zone drives this season, the second-best percentage in the NFL, but allowed the Steelers to score touchdowns on each of their three red zone opportunities in their Week 9 loss.

One X factor for Baltimore would be punter Sam Koch, who could have a significant impact on Pittsburgh's scoring chances. Koch led the NFL in net yards above average (a stat that compares a punter's performance to the league average punt from each spot on the field). He ranked third in the NFL in yards and net yards per punt.

Keys for a Steelers win
The Steelers have their most potent offensive team. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the Steelers are the first team since the 1999 Colts (and only the second team since the 1970 merger) to have the conference leader in passing yards (Roethlisberger), rushing yards (Le’Veon Bell) and receiving yards (Antonio Brown).

Bell’s health is a big question mark, due to a knee injury suffered in Week 17. He accounted for 78 percent of his team’s rushing yardage this season, the second-highest percentage in the NFL.

If Bell can’t play, the Steelers will rely on the newly signed Ben Tate, as well as Dri Archer and Josh Harris to carry the ball. Archer and Harris have combined for 56 rushing yards on 19 rushes this season, and Tate averaged a career-low 3.1 yards per rush.

Bell’s absence would be important for another reason. His presence helps in keeping the Steelers' defense off the field. Pittsburgh’s 32:25 average time of possession was highest in the NFL this season.

Brown had two nice games against the Ravens this season, netting 18 receptions on 28 targets for 234 yards. Roethlisberger will look for Brown on short and intermediate passes (Brown led the NFL in receptions on passes thrown less than 20 yards downfield) and will rely on him on third down (Brown caught an NFL-high 36 passes on 54 third-down targets) frequently.

Did you know?
The Steelers are 33-21 in their postseason history, tied with the Cowboys for the most playoff wins all time.

Bell joins Payton with huge game

December, 7, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell had another dominant performance Sunday, this time against his AFC North division rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals. Here’s how Bell put himself in the company of Walter Payton.
Le'Veon Bell

With 185 yards on the ground and 50 more in the receiving game, Bell recorded his third consecutive game with at least 200 yards from scrimmage. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bell joined Payton as the only players in NFL history with three straight games of 200 scrimmage yards. Payton stood alone on that list for 37 years before Bell joined him.

Bell has totaled 711 yards from scrimmage over the past three games. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that total is the second-most yards from scrimmage in a three-game span in NFL history, trailing the 746 that Payton posted during his 1977 streak.

How Bell dominated
• Bell rushed for a career-high 121 yards before contact, the fourth-highest total in a game this season. No Steelers player in the last six years gained more rush yards before contact in one game.

• Bell was the first Steelers player since Mewelde Moore in Week 7 of 2008 with multiple rushing touchdowns and a receiving TD in the same game. Moore’s opponent that day was also the Bengals.

• Bell had 110 rush yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone. He’s the fourth player in the last five years with at least 110 rush yards in a fourth quarter.

Bell opens up play action
Bell’s big day opened up play-action passing for Ben Roethlisberger, who had his best road game of the season (25-of-39, 350 yards, three touchdowns). Roethlisberger was 5-of-7 for 147 yards and two touchdowns on play-action passes Sunday.

Roethlisberger averaged 21 yards per attempt on play-action passes, compared with 6.3 yards per attempt on all other passes. Bell’s performance influenced the entire Steelers' offense, even when he wasn't running the ball.

Bell gashes Titans between the tackles

November, 18, 2014

AP Photo/Wade PayneLe'Veon Bell rushed for a career-high 204 yards in the Steelers' comeback win.
Le'Veon Bell became the first player to top 200 yards on the ground this season. Bell took it straight to the Tennessee Titans on Monday night and ran for 204 yards, including 196 between the tackles.

A big reason for Bell’s career night was a dominant performance by the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line, as 111 of the 204 yards came before contact.

Into the record books
For a team that historically ranks as a run-first team, this was just the fifth 200-yard rushing game in Steelers’ franchise history. Bell rushed for more yards Monday than either Franco Harris or Jerome Bettis ever did in a single game for Pittsburgh.

Bell also became the fifth player to run for 200 or more yards in a Monday Night Football game. He joined Bo Jackson (1987), Thurman Thomas (1990), Ricky Williams (2002) and Shaun Alexander (2006).

Unexpected output
In recent weeks, Bell had been more of a factor catching the ball than on rushes. In his previous four games, he had 215 yards on receptions and 205 yards on the ground.

His 33 rushes Monday were seven more than his previous career-high of 26, set in the Steelers’ second-to-last game of the past season.

The most recent time a Steeler running back carried that many times was in November 2010, when Rashard Mendenhall rushed 36 times in a win over the Buffalo Bills.

Bell averaged 6.2 yards per rush. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no other player in Steelers history has made that many carries in a game while averaging at least 6 yards per run.

Sprinting to the finish
Bell finished strong and racked up 74 yards in the fourth quarter. That's more than he had in total in five of his previous 10 games.

In the Steelers' final, clock-killing drive, they ran 12 plays. Eight of the plays were runs by Bell, including a stretch of six straight plays. The other four plays were two Ben Roethlisberger passes and two Roethlisberger kneel-downs.

Top stats to know: Steelers 30, Texans 23

October, 21, 2014
The Houston Texans jumped out to an early 13-0 lead on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night. The Steelers then rode a late first-half surge to a 24-13 lead at halftime. After the Texans held that early lead, they were outscored 30-10 for the rest of the game.

The Steelers are now 8-2 on "Monday Night Football" under Mike Tomlin, and the Texans have lost three straight after a 3-1 start to the season.

The difference in the game was the quick 24 points the Steelers posted late in the second quarter, leading to their 16th straight "Monday Night Football" victory, the longest streak in the history of the franchise.

Steelers strike quickly
Pittsburgh scored 24 points in a span of 2:54 to completely change the momentum of the game. They had scored 27 points over their previous two games combined.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time an NFL team scored 24 or more points in less than three minutes was in Week 4 of 2002, when the Seattle Seahawks posted 28 points in 1:47 against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Steelers are the first team to score 21 points in the final two minutes of a half since the Texans in 2012 Week 1 (21 in first half versus Miami Dolphins). Furthermore, they are the only team in the past decade to score three touchdowns in the final 90 seconds of a half.

Killer B's attack for Steelers
Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was a jack-of-all-trades, catching nine passes for 90 yards and adding his first career touchdown pass for good measure during that 24-point surge at the end of the first half.

According to Elias, Brown is the third player in NFL history with at least nine receptions and a touchdown pass in a game, joining James Wilder (1984) and Jerry Rice (1995). He also extended his NFL-record streak of at least five receptions and 50 yards to 23 straight games.

With two touchdown passes, Ben Roethlisberger has at least 10 in each of his first 11 seasons. That ties Jim Kelly for the fourth most such seasons to start a career in NFL history.

Roethlisberger completed 23 passes, and 17 of them were either to Le'Veon Bell or Brown. He was 8-for-8 for 88 yards and a touchdown targeting Bell, who eclipsed 100 scrimmage yards for the seventh consecutive game this season. Bell joins DeMarco Murray as the only players with at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of their team's games this season.

Other notable tidbits
Not to be forgotten was another outstanding effort from J.J. Watt. Watt had a sack and a fumble recovery on Monday, marking his third such game this season. No other player had more than one such game. Additionally, his fumble recovery was his NFL-leading third of the season.

With 77 receiving yards, Andre Johnson moved passed Hall of Famer Steve Largent for 14th on the career receiving yards list.

Top stats to know: Texans-Steelers on MNF

October, 20, 2014
The Houston Texans have lost two straight games after starting the season 3-1, and tonight they visit the 3-3 Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost to Cleveland last week and have alternated wins and losses through six games. Here's what you need to know for "Monday Night Football" (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN).

Steelers strong on Monday night
Since 1992, Pittsburgh has won a record 15 consecutive Monday night home games, last losing to the Giants in 1991.

Coach Mike Tomlin is in his eighth season with the Steelers, and he is 7-2 on Monday night. Only Jim Harbaugh (6-0) has a higher win percentage on Monday night among active coaches.

The Texans are 3-4 on "Monday Night Football," winning their most recent appearance in Week 1 last season at San Diego.

Watt is the problem
To borrow a baseball phrase, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is filling up the box score this season with eight tackles for loss, a league-high five batted passes, four sacks, two fumbles recovered, an interception and even a blocked extra point.

Watt had three batted passes last week, tying a single-game career high. His 31 batted passes since he entered the NFL in 2011 are seven more than any other player.

And oh yeah, Watt has three touchdowns this season, tied for second on the team behind Arian Foster with five. Watt is the only player in the past 50 years to score a touchdown via a fumble return (45 yards), an interception return (80 yards) and a reception (one yard) in a single season.

Rampant running backs
Both lead running backs are having strong seasons, as Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell ranks second in the league with 542 rushing yards, just ahead of third-place Foster (513 yards).

Arian Foster
Le’Veon Bell
Bell trails only DeMarco Murray in rushing yards and is behind only Murray and Matt Forte in yards from scrimmage. Bell has recorded at least 100 scrimmage yards in his first six games this season, joining Murray as the only players to accomplish that.

For Houston, Foster has rebounded from an injury-plagued 2013 season to rush for 100 yards in four of his five games this season, scoring a pair of touchdowns in each of his last two games.

Through six weeks, Foster has carried the ball more than 21 times per game, ranking second in the league behind Murray (26.7).

Record-setting receivers
Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown has at least five catches and 50 receiving yards in an NFL-record 22 straight games. The previous best streak was 19, held by Laveranues Coles, and the second-longest current streak is T.Y. Hilton at five.

Andre Johnson
Antonio Brown
Houston's Andre Johnson is coming off season highs in receptions (seven) and yards (99) last week against Indianapolis.

That game made Johnson the 15th NFL player with over 13,000 career receiving yards. With 13,080 yards, he is nine behind Steve Largent for 14th on the NFL's career list. Johnson is 118 yards behind Andre Reed for 13th place (and most among players named Andre).

Top things to know: NFL Draft RB prospects

April, 18, 2013

John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsEddie Lacy is rated as the top running back prospect in the 2013 class by Scouts Inc.
Eddie Lacy
Lacy was the beneficiary of one of the top offensive lines in football. Lacy gained 65 percent of his yards before initial contact and averaged 4.2 yards before contact per rush. He made it at least five yards past the line of scrimmage without being touched on 35.8 percent of his rushes.

Lacy runs downhill with 64.7 percent of his rushes coming between the tackles. Lacy averaged 7.6 yards per carry on such running plays with about one in every four attempts going for at least 10 yards.

In comparison to former Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Lacy averaged 2.5 more yards per rush inside the tackles in his final college season.

Montee Ball
Ball was undoubtedly the most productive back in FBS over the last two seasons. Ball led FBS in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and rushes of 15 yards or longer since the start of the 2011 season.

Ball gained 36.1 percent of his FBS-leading 3,750 yards on rushes outside of the tackles over the last two seasons. Ball averaged 7.1 yards per carry on such running plays with at about one in every four gaining at least 10 yards.

Andre Ellington
Ellington gained over 40 percent of his yards after contact in 2012 but struggled to gain tough yards against top competition. Ellington averaged twice as many yards after contact per rush against teams that did not finish the season ranked in the top 50 in total defense than he did against the five top-50 defenses that he faced.

Le’Veon Bell
Bell gained over half of his yards after contact and led BCS-AQ running backs with 921 yards after contact.

Marcus Lattimore
Lattimore gained 41 percent of his yards after contact in his career. Against SEC opponents, Lattimore was even better, gaining 43 percent of his yards after contact and averaging 2.0 yards after contact per rush.

Lattimore ran between the tackles on 78.9 percent of his career carries. He averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry inside the tackles in every season of his career. Lattimore was at his best in the fourth quarter, averaging 5.5 yards per run inside the tackles with 54.2 percent of his yards coming after contact.

Rushing title on the line in Albuquerque

December, 14, 2012
Amid the elevation of University Stadium in Albuquerque, which sits almost a mile above sea level, the top two rushers in FBS will go rush for rush against each other Saturday in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).

The Arizona Wildcats' Ka'Deem Carey leads FBS with 146.4 rushing yards per game. Nevada Wolf Pack running back Stefphon Jefferson is second in the country with 141.9 yards per game. Carey was an AP All-American first-team selection (along with Wisconsin’s Montee Ball), and Jefferson was a third-team selection.

A big game could lead to the FBS rushing title for either player, so let’s break down the pair head-to-head:

Big-play potential
Carey is tied with UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin for the FBS lead in rushes of at least 10 yards with 54.

He leads the country -- all of FBS -- in rushes of at least 20 yards with 20. Carey also has ripped off eight runs of at least 30 yards this season. All of those tallies are much higher than those of Jefferson, who has 11 runs of at least 20 yards. Edge: Carey

Jefferson has had his number called time and again in coach Chris Ault’s pistol-style offense; his 341 rushes are the second-most this season in FBS behind Michigan State’s LeVeon Bell. Jefferson has six games when he has run the ball at least 30 times. That’s tied with Bell for the most such games in FBS. By comparison, the most rushes Carey has had in a game this season is 29. Edge: Jefferson

Getting first downs
Their first-down totals are nearly identical (86-85 in favor of Jefferson), but Carey’s rate gets the upper hand. Carey has picked up first downs on almost 31 percent of his rushes this season compared with 25 percent for Jefferson. Edge: Carey

Jefferson has converted almost half of his goal-to-go rushes into touchdowns (17 TDs on 35 rushes). Carey has been no slouch (13 TDs on 36 rushes), but his 36.1 conversion rate is lower than Jefferson's. Edge: Jefferson

Chasing records
With one more rushing touchdown, Carey will tie the school record for most in a season with 21. With 9 more rushing yards, Jefferson will set the Mountain West Conference single-season record, and with 30 more yards he’ll set the school single-season record. Edge: Even

Teammate rushing threat
Nevada’s pistol offense also has another rushing threat in QB Cody Fajardo, who averages 89.1 yards per game. Combined, Jefferson and Fajardo are rushing for 231.1 yards per game – the highest total by any teammate duo in FBS. Carey’s top rushing teammate is also his quarterback, but Matt Scott’s average of 44.1 yards per game is less than half of Fajardo’s. Edge: Jefferson

The bowl game itself will have to decide this one. The backs are similar even in their height (Jefferson 5-11 to Carey 5-10), weight (Jefferson 210 to Carey 197) and jersey. Both wear No. 25. As Carey told the Tucson Citizen, “It’s going to be show time between me and him. There’s the game, and then it’s me vs him. I think it’s two games in one.”

Notre Dame hopes to 'box' up Spartans

September, 14, 2012

Matt Cashore/US PresswireNotre Dame RB Cierre Wood returns from a two-game suspension Saturday against Michigan State. Wood rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns last season against the Spartans.
In the only matchup between teams ranked in the AP Top-20 this weekend, No. 10 Michigan State hosts No. 20 Notre Dame at 8pm ET on ABC. The Spartans and Fighting Irish have split their last 10 meetings with the home team winning each of the last four contests.

The last time these two teams met in East Lansing, Michigan State defeated Notre Dame, 34-31, on a fake field goal in overtime two seasons ago. The 29-yard TD pass from Aaron Bates to Charlie Gantt gave the Spartans their first and only lead of the game.

Including that win, Michigan State is 9-1 in games decided by eight points or fewer since 2010. The win was also the second of what is now 15-straight wins at home for Michigan State, the fourth-longest active streak among FBS schools.

Notre Dame enters the game at 2-0 and hopes to win its first three games of the season for the first time since starting 8-0 in 2002. The Irish have entered their matchup with Michigan State at 2-0 twice since then (2005 & 2008) and lost each of those games on the road.

Should the Irish come away with the win, it would be their first win over a team ranked in the AP Top-10 since 2005 when they knocked off No. 3 Michigan. They have lost nine straight such games since then, the longest streak in Notre Dame history.

One player the Irish will need to slow down if they hope to come up with the road win is Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell. Bell ranks sixth in the nation with 140.0 rush yards per game but has been limited when opponents have stacked the line of scrimmage.

Against defensive fronts with seven or more players in the box, Bell has averaged 3.5 yards per carry on 32 attempts with 37 yards after contact. Against fronts with six or fewer in the box, he has averaged 5.6 yards per carry on 30 attempts with 74 yards after contact.

You can expect Notre Dame to bring a safety or two up to help against the run because Spartans QB Andrew Maxwell has yet to stretch the field consistently. He’s completed only 38.9 percent of his pass attempts 10 yards or more downfield this season.

Speaking of defense, it’s tough to ignore the numbers that Michigan State has put up in two games this season.

The Spartans enter the weekend as one of three teams in the FBS yet to allow an offensive touchdown in 2012 and the other two (Florida State & TCU) have played only schools from the FCS. The 225.5 total yards they have allowed per game lead the Big Ten and rank eighth in the FBS.

Last weekend, Tommy Rees replaced Everett Golson at quarterback for Notre Dame’s final offensive drive against Purdue, which led to a game-winning field goal. However, head coach Brian Kelly said Golson will be the starter on Saturday.

Elsewhere in the backfield, the Irish hope the return of RB Cierre Wood will provide a spark against Michigan State like he did last season in South Bend. Wood, suspended the first two games of 2012, rushed for 61 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Notre Dame’s upset win over the No. 15 Spartans last season.