‘We would have won with Le’Veon Bell’ and other hypotheticals.
I think as fans of a professional sports team we are all guilty of this one, rather than assessing the play on the field on the day we fall back on assessing everything that has gone before up until this point. We are prone to state ‘We would have won with’, the latest case with the Steelers heartbreaking loss to the Denver Broncos is a slew of instant takes along the lines of ‘We would have won with Bell’ from fans and ‘Are the Pittsburgh Steelers missing Le’Veon Bell?’ from professional sports writers.
In respect to the question, would the Steelers have won with Bell? Maybe…maybe not. It’s difficult to say. Bell’s presence in the lineup might very well have alleviated the double teams from Antonio Brown freeing up to do more damage. That being said Ben Roethlisberger was 41 for 56 with a 73% completion rate. His performance was marred by two interceptions but it can hardly be said that the Steelers were struggling to move the ball through the air.
Perhaps Le’Veon Bell would have more secure hands? Much has been said on James Conner’s lost fumble – in reality the fumble from Xavier Grimble that resulted in a touchback feels much more egregious.
Would Bell have been more secure? In 2018 James Conner while serving as the featured back has fumbled four times and two resulted in turnovers. In that span he has rushed for 849 yards on 186 attempts and has 10 touchdowns whilst also contributing 453 receiving yards and a touchdown off the back of 49 receptions. For comparison Le’Veon Bell over the first twelve games of the 2017 season put up the following numbers. 981 yards rushing on 252 attempts with 5 touchdowns, 308 yards receiving with no touchdowns. Bell had three fumbles of which two resulted in turnovers.
From this data I’d conjecture that Bell could very easily have been in the same situation. The other problem with this hypothetical is at what point do we imagine Bell has returned? Did he play the preseason? Is there a negative feeling in the locker room or are we assuming that all gets patched up? If he sits out the preseason and plays week one in this scenario do the Steelers still win in Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Cincinnati?
This isn’t an attack on Bell. I totally understand why he elected to sit out, I don’t agree with how he communicated it. But what’s done is done.
As fans we tend to become enamoured with what if scenarios, we imagine that we could have just slotted in a specific player and it would fix all that ails. That simply isn’t the case. Bell is a gifted player, but he isn’t a football messiah. James Conner is not the reason the Steelers lost the game against Denver, and Le’Veon Bell would have not have been the saviour.
As fans we have to accept that the players on the field are what the team has to work with, it is down to the team to execute. To practice good fundamentals. To play good situational football and to emphasise ball security.
It is evident the Steelers have a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball in practice this week.
Here is what I would like to see in the game versus the Chargers.
- Better ball security in space, especially better ball security when it comes to approaching the goal line. Play smart, don’t play macho unless you have to. Running through a defender just because you can is tempting fate.
- A more balanced offense. As mentioned Ben Roethlisberger attempted 56 passes compared to 13 rushing attempts by Conner and two by Big Ben. We might note that the pass was working, so why fix what isn’t broken? A more balanced offense keeps the opponent guessing, it keeps them honest and alleviates some pressure from the receivers. Furthermore Conner has a bruising north-south running style that I feel can really benefit from getting into a rhythm of good strong running, not to mention the more successful carries he has the more his confidence will grow.
- In addition to seeing more of the running game the O-line has been great at pass protection, but it would be fantastic to see the line opening up the running lanes for Conner like they were doing.
- The Steelers need to be more competitive in the turnover battle. The secondary is what it is, Joe Haden is still talented but there are some issues with pass coverage. Limiting the offensive giveaways will hopefully give the defense the breathing room it needs to get some takeaways itself.
The Steelers are as talented as any team in the league, and they deserve to be spoken about in the same breath as the Patriots, Chargers, Chiefs, Ram and yes even the Saints but they desperately need to stop beating themselves. The next match on the Steelers schedule is a Week 13 clash with the L.A Chargers coming to town, kickoff is 1.20am GMT for any nightowls desperate to watch the game live.
Any mistakes or errors in the stats remain my own.
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