But that instant offense required 28 touches per game, resulting in a groin injury that resurfaced in the AFC title game. Over 16 games, Bell’s pace would have produced 448 overall touches, good enough for seventh all-time.
When asked about managing Bell’s workload, offensive coordinator Todd Haley said the Steelers will have “all those discussions.”
“He’s a guy, his injuries have been oddball type of things, even the hamstring,” Haley said. “He’s a guy who gets stronger every game. He does not want to come out of the game. He’s a year older. We’ve got to make sure we cover all of that, which we will and do as a staff.”
Bell, 25, will see the ball early and often, but with a deeper crop of receivers this year, the Steelers might not need him to carry them as much. Sometimes throwing Bell the ball is just as important as handing it to him. Bell ran 32.6 routes per game in 2016, more than Atlanta Falcons star receiver Julio Jones, according to Pro Football Focus.
Bell is not attending minicamp while unsigned and under the franchise tag, and the Steelers have until July 15 to work out a long-term contract. If an agreement cannot be reached, Bell’s one-year franchise tender will be worth $12.1 million.
Bell visited the Steelers facility two weeks ago so the team could monitor his groin injury, which required surgery in March.
Though Bell is missing workouts that coaches deem important, Haley cites Bell’s track record when recovering from injuries as a reason to expect a smooth transition into training camp.
“I know Le’Veon’s ability — he’s missed because of injury, and when he’s come back, he’s come back ready to go,” Haley said. “I assume that’s the way it will be. He’s an astute guy who at least in the past has always come in at a high, high level for us … . He’s got his own issues he’s dealing with. When he gets here, we will all be excited.”
Third-round rookie James Conner, free agent signing Knile Davis and veteran Fitz Toussaint have been the primary running backs on the field at minicamp. Haley said he’s excited about the addition of Davis, who rushed for 10 touchdowns in his first two seasons in Kansas City before injuries surfaced.
Conner is the logical option to replace Bell for stretches, but a hamstring injury has limited his offseason work.