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Ben Roethlisberger: “Distraction” of Le’Veon Bell hurt the Steelers

Divisional Round - Jacksonville Jaguars v Pittsburgh Steelers

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: Le’Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half of the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field on January 14, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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The Steelers replaced Le’Veon Bell’s yardage.

That’s not the same as replacing Le’Veon Bell.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said the “distraction” of their franchise-tagged running back never showing up clearly hurt the team this year, as they missed the playoffs by a half-game.

“It hurts you when you don’t have one of the better players in the game,” Roethlisberger said during his appearance on 93.7 The Fan. “But I think the biggest thing that hurts us was that it was a distraction. At his position we got to see James Conner and Jaylen Samuels, and I thought we got to see guys come into their own and see a glimpse of the future. I was really encouraged about life without Le’Veon.”

Conner and Samuels combined for 1,229 rushing yards, 696 receiving yards, and 16 touchdowns this year.

In 2017, Bell had 1,291 rushing yards, 655 receiving yards, and 11 touchdowns.

Of course, the bigger problem for the Steelers wasn’t any dip in production, but the $14.5 million they had budgeted for Bell that was never spent to improve the team. When you consider how narrow the margin was for them in missing the playoffs for the first time since 2013, it’s clear they could have used a player or five which could have been acquired with that money.