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Give Le’Veon Bell a Chance – the Browns Did with Trent Richardson

By Alan Robinson

Don’t judge Le’Veon Bell’s rookie season before it’s begun.

Bell’s inability to stay healthy has been one of the Steelers’ unwanted stories of August 2013. They were all but ready to hand him the starting job – and the ball 18-20 times a game – until he bruised a knee, aggravated it, and then sprained his mid foot. A mid foot sprain is a stretching or tearing, an injury that is both painful and, often, lingering, and he will be out for multiple weeks to begin the season.

But the injury doesn’t mean that Bell can’t make something out of a season that, he were healthy, might have seen him become the Steelers’ most productive rookie running back since Franco Harris in 1972. (Harris remains the only rookie running back in Steelers history to rush for 1,000 yards in his rookie season.) They were certainly going to give him the opportunity to accomplish that.

Even if Bell misses six weeks, and the Steelers are hopeful he won’t, he will have about a half season to establish himself, learn the league, figure out what it takes to find running room, how to mesh with his linemen, adjust to the speed and the contact of the NFL, to find his way. All that will prove invaluable.

And does anyone remember Troy Polamalu’s rookie season? You don’t because he rarely got on the field and didn’t do much when he did. Le’Veon Bell will get on the field and, by December, if he flashes during games the way he did during camp, many fans likely will have forgotten the injuries of August, games missed in September.

Browns running back Trent Richardson offers one example, and a nearby one at that.

Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft, he missed the entire preseason after undergoing surgery to remove cartilage fragments from his knee. Many in the always-skeptical Browns fan base began writing him off as a wasted pick – or, at least, writing off his rookie season.

Richardson didn’t show much in the season opener, rushing 19 times for only 39 yards against the Eagles. Again, there was talk that missing all of camp would set him back all season.

But a week later, he ran for 109 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown and he caught a touchdown pass against the Bengals, and he went on to run for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns and catch 51 passes. All this in a season during which he had the knee operation and broke multiple ribs, an injury that persisted over the final two-plus months of the season.

Le’Veon Bell’s rookie season hasn’t yet started. That might be something to remember when dismissing it as already being over.

Comments

  1. Jason says:

    What a silly column.

    Trent Richardson was ready for the season opener, which is why that isn’t even a similar comparison.

    And just what the Steelers need right now: a running back spending the second half season establishing himself, learning the league, figuring out what it takes to find running room, etc.

    Sure, it sucks for Bell and we feel bad for him, but we’re allowed to disappointed by his injury.

  2. tpbco says:

    Thanks Alan.

    Hopefully this will be widely read and at least appreciated.

    There’s an incredible amount of venom around here, very disappointing.

  3. Nate83 says:

    I know I’m in the minority but I’m positive about the season. NFL teams never seem to do what you expect them to. There has been years I thought the Steelers where going to be unbeatable and they struggled to a 7-9 or 8-8 record.

    This year brings excitement for me because there are so many unknowns. I can’t wait to see how this line comes together. Sure the line could be horrible or struggle at first but with 4 guys this young I’m more excited about seeing if 3 or 4 of them show they can be pieces for a long time to come. That would really be a plus for the team going forward and make for a healthy situation for the tail end of Ben’s career.

  4. Jim S. says:

    I don’t want to seem negative, and I certainly hope the team does well. But, let’s not act as though we should not be at least a bit concerned, both about Bell and the team’s chances overall. Bell has been injured 3x already, and while it is true that Richardson proved that several early injuries don’t have to define a career, I’m sure there are many examples of guys who started out injury-prone and never stayed healthy. It would be foolish, in my opinion, to think that is not at least a good possibility with Bell as well.

    As for the team, overall, I don’t see nearly the talent I saw a few years ago. I don’t think they have done a good job of drafting or developing replacements on either line, and I don’t see a lot of impact players on this team. I do not think they have done a good job with the salary cap management, either. I am encouraged by this year’s draft class, assuming Bell can get and stay healthy.

    This was a dominant team a few years ago. I am very skeptical they will be anything close to that any time soon. You can call that being negative. I call it realistic. I hope I’m wrong.

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