Patience is one of the traits Le'Veon Bell prides himself on, both on and off the field. Bell, whose patient running style led to enormous success during his time with the Steelers, was then patient with regard to signing his longterm contract. He sat out the entire 2018 season before signing a lucrative deal with the Jets as an unrestricted free agent this past offseason.
While he is remaining patient when it comes to his slow start with his new team, Bell -- who rushed for just 589 yards while averaging 3.2 yards per carry during the Jets' first 12 games -- wants to start having more of an impact on the outcome of his team's games. Bell said as much during the latest edition of his joint podcast, "17 Weeks". Bell, who missed the Jets' Week 14 win over the Dolphins with an illness, explained the main reason behind his lack of success during his first season in New York while also offering a solution.
"I've been playing in this league for a long time. I've always been kinda used to like, getting the ball 20, 25, 30 times," said Bell, who led the NFL with 321 rushing attempts during his final season in Pittsburgh. "Because that's what my body can handle and that's the type of player I've always been. Even in college, at Michigan State, I was getting the ball that much.
"I go to the NFL, it's been the same thing. Isn't it funny this year, because it hasn't happened. I understand (the) offense is starting got come together, and guys are starting to learn, we got a new system, and new players up front and we got new coaches and things like that. But I think, for me, I would love to put the game on my back and take games over. I haven't had one of those games this year yet. But a lot of people don't think I'm the same player or I can't do that. That's because I haven't had the opportunity to really show. As time goes on, we'll get better, we'll find a way to make things shake."
Bell is right. He averaged just 15.3 carries and slightly fewer than 20 touches per game during his first 12 games with the Jets. Conversely, Bell, a three-time Pro Bowler, and two-time All-Pro, average 19.8 carries and just under 25 touches in 62 regular-season games in Pittsburgh. Bell received a larger workload in four postseason games with the Steelers, averaging 25 carries and 31.3 touches in his three full playoff games in Pittsburgh.
The extended workload, however, particularly in the 2016 playoffs, eventually took its toll on Bell. After rushing for 167 and 170 yards in Pittsburgh's first two playoff games, Bell left the 2016 AFC Championship Game with a groin injury early in the second quarter. During his five active seasons in Pittsburgh, Bell sustained a season-ending injury three times while missing out on Pittsburgh's 2014 and '15 playoff appearances. While two of his injuries did not have anything to do with his workload, questions Bell's history of injuries is likely one of the main reasons why his market value was not as high as he likely hoped it would be entering free agency. His age (he'll be 28 in February) and the fact that he sat out an entire year likely didn't help his market value, either.
Bell was also on target when discussing the pieces around him. He is no longer surrounded by a future Hall of Fame quarterback and this decade's most productive receiver. Bell is also no longer playing behind an offensive line that boasts three Pro Bowlers, something he had during his time with the Steelers. Instead, Bell is now playing with a second-year quarterback, a weaker offensive line and a receiving corps that pales in comparison to the ones that he played with as a member of the Steelers. Until the Jets' offensive weapons surrounding him improve, Bell will likely continue to struggle to have the success he found with the Steelers.
That being said, Bell is still hopeful that things will turn around in New York. Last month, despite rumors of the Jets nearly trading him before the deadline, Bell talked about his desire to remain with the Jets while promising better days ahead for himself and the franchise. Bell's optimism has been somewhat realized during the second half of the season, as the Jets are 4-1 in their last five games entering this Sunday's road game against the Ravens. And despite his team's 5-8 record, Bell is not giving up on his team's playoff chances, recalling the events of his rookie season as the reason why.
"I've seen weirder things happen in the NFL, so until we're like, officially eliminated from the playoffs, I always kinda got hope," he said. "My rookie year with the Pittsburgh Steelers, we were 7-8, and then we played the Browns in the last game. We had to win that game and we had to hope the Chiefs won their game. The Chiefs had a game-winning field goal, it was like a 35-yarder or something. The Chiefs' kicker missed it, and that's how we missed the playoffs. So, at 8-8, we would have been in the playoffs as a wild card team. So I've seen teams make the playoffs at 7-9. I'm always optimistic. I'm not gonna say we're eliminated until it's official."