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The Case for Lacy over Bell

Recently Mike Tomlin has said that he would take Bell over Lacy if he had the chance go back and draft again.

Clearly, this is just a case of someone supporting “his” guy.

In terms of grading a Running Back you need to look at three different phases of the game and weigh each according to how important they are.

The first and most important phase of the game is running the ball. This area of the game isn’t even close between the two players.  Lacy has averaged 4.1 yards per carry over 248 carries for a total of 1028 yards.  Bell has averaged 3.3 yards per carry over 198 carries for a total of 646 yards.  Lacy has had 23 big runs (rushes of at least ten yards) vs. Bell’s 8 big runs (of all NFL RBs with at least 150 carries he ranks right at the bottom).  When running the ball from inside the 3 yard line lacy has 6 TD’s in 7 attempts while Bell has only 4 TD’s in 11 attempts.  Advantage: Lacy, and it isn’t close

The second area Ill look at, and not necessarily more important than the third, is receiving.  The Steelers offense looks to pass to the running back quite a bit more than the Packers but when looking at the stats each player has compiled you can see their efficiency is pretty equal.  Bell has been targeted on 63 passes for a total of 388 yards. Bell’s QB has averaged 6.2 yards per attempt when throwing to Bell for a total of 12 first downs.  Lacy has been targeted on 39 passes for a total of 236 yards.  Lacy’s QB has averaged 6.1 yards per attempt when throwing to Lacy for a total of 12 first downs. The one advantage it seems goes to Bell here is that he can line up outside in a receiver type position, but the success isn’t necessarily much better than the packers offense has had utilizing Lacy’s receiving ability. Advantage: Bell, but it is fairly close

The third area we will look at is Pass Protection.  Pro Football Focus has an equation they use to rate RB’s in pass protection. It’s pretty simple, they count the number of plays a RB stays into pass block, and count the number of pressures they themselves allow.  The number 3 ranked RB in the NFL so far this year has been Eddie Lacy with 90 snaps where he’s only allowed one single pressure.  On the other hand Le’Veon Bell has allowed 6 pressures in 59 plays where he’s in to pass block, he’s ranked 38th (out of only 46 RBs that qualify with enough snaps) in the NFL.  Advantage: Lacy, and it isn’t close

There are other variables when determining who the better RB is. Fumbling history and injury history are a couple of those factors, but both these players seem to be pretty equal in these areas (Lacy has the only fumble of the two) and both have missed time this season (Bell 4 games vs. Lacy 3 games).

There is also a couple subjective arguments to make; whose offensive line is better and what do defenses game plan for when playing them.

Both of their offensive lines are missing key run blockers; Bryan Bulaga  for the packers and Maurkice Pouncey for the Steelers.  Both units are regarded among the bottom half of the NFL this season.

The Packers offense, without Aaron Rodgers, have faced stacked boxes constantly in an effort by opposing defenses to stop Eddie Lacy first.  The Steelers have had a good amount of success this season passing the ball and thus the defenses they have faced have been more concentrated on stopping the Steelers passing game instead of their running game.  Which makes it more impressive how Lacy has still been successful, and it makes it even more unimpressive how Bell hasn’t had success running the ball.

Eddie Lacy has proven to be a 3 down Running Back, whereas Le’Veon Bell has only proven to be a solid pass catcher out of the backfield….who is Mike Tomlin kidding?