To say Le’Veon Bell had a slow start with the Pittsburgh Steelers would be inaccurate.
In fact, the first-year running back from Michigan State didn’t have a start at all, as he missed the first three regular-season games with a foot injury. Since then, Bell has been a key part of the Steelers’ offense, a fact recognized Tuesday by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America when it named him the team’s rookie of the year.
Bell, a 21-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, joins six teammates as recipients of what’s known as the “Joe Greene Great Performance Award,” named after the Steelers’ former Hall of Fame defensive lineman who burst on the NFL scene in 1969.
Bell didn’t quite make the same impact Greene did, but he’s certainly the best of the Steelers’ 2013 draft class. Taken in Round 2 last April, Bell was the second running back chosen in the draft, behind only the Bengals’ Giovani Bernard. While Green Bay rookie Eddie Lacy – another second-rounder – has 1,112 rushing yards to Bell’s 770, Bell has reached his total on 39 fewer attempts due to his injury.
The 393 receiving yards Bell has accumulated make it a near dead heat for the top back of this year’s NFL rookie class. The 6-foot-1, 240-pounder is coming off his two most productive games of the season: he racked up 107 total offensive yards in a home win against Cincinnati on Dec. 15, then followed that up with 124 rushing yards last Sunday at Green Bay in a victory that kept Pittsburgh’s playoff aspirations alive.
Bell is the third first-year player in franchise history to record more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage; he needs 73 against Cleveland on Sunday to break Franco Harris‘ rookie team record for total offensive yards, which stands at 1,235.
Current Steelers Troy Polamalu (2003), Ben Roethlisberger (2004), Heath Miller (2005), Maurkice Pouncey (2010), Marcus Gilbert (2011) and Mike Adams (2012) also have the Joe Greene Award in their trophy cases.
Taylor named most cooperative
Eleventh-year pro Ike Taylor was honored Tuesday as well, although not for his play on the field. Rather, the affable 33-year-old cornerback was given the “Chief Award” by local football journalists.
Named for Steelers founder Art Rooney, Sr., the prize is bestowed upon the Steeler deemed to be the most cooperative with media members and requests. Taylor said his experience hosting his own radio show gives him an appreciation for the work journalists do.
Taylor’s win makes it three in a row by veteran defensive players, with Casey Hampton and James Farrior claiming it the past two seasons. That the past three recipients have been in their 30s makes sense, as players usually get more comfortable around the media as they gain experience.
Of course, Taylor hopes he doesn’t end up retired soon like the last two winners of the “Chief.”