When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed DeAngelo Williams to fill in for Le’Veon Bell while he served a two game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy it was not expected that he would have such a significant impact. After missing ten games in 2014 due to injury, it was not certain that the former Pro Bowl running back could return to his late 2000’s form.
When the Steelers faced the New England Patriots to begin the 2015 season Williams exploded onto the scene with an impressive 127 yard game. Even with the 28-21 loss to begin the year it was reassuring to know that the team finally found a capable running back to place behind their All-Pro star. Pittsburgh still had one more game without Bell, but it seemed that the backfield was in capable hands.
Williams displayed just how capable he was when he rushed for 77 yards and three touchdowns in the Steelers’ home opener against the San Francisco 49ers. He would score the same amount of touchdowns in one game as he did in his last twenty-one games as a Carolina Panther. Even though Bell would be back the next week, Williams proved to the NFL that he is still has a lot left in the tank.
Bell’s return would mark the end of the plethora of touches Williams would receive. After 41 rush attempts in the first two games, he has been reduced to only a total of three in weeks three and four. Such was to be expected with Bell returning to the starting lineup. With a fresh set of legs, the third year star’s production was as everyone expected. In his first two games back Bell has accumulated 191 yards on the ground and rushed for two scores.
Even with the limited number of carries that Williams is granted, he still holds a very important role on the Steelers’ offense. It may not seem like it now, but, in the coming months, Williams will find himself being utilized more and more often. If the Steelers have a reasonable chance to make the playoffs they will not make the same mistake they did a season ago.
Without a reliable second running back after LeGarrette Blount was released by the team, the Steelers leaned on Bell to handle a considerable amount of snaps throughout the second half of the 2014 season. Although rookies Josh Harris and Dri Archer were on the roster they did not have the experience to match Bell’s production.
Being forced to take the majority of those snaps resulted in Bell’s week seventeen injury against the Cincinnati Bengals where he hyperextended his right knee. The Steelers went on to win the game, and earn the right to home field advantage in the wildcard round of the playoffs, but their victory came at the expense of Bell missing the game.
The Steelers were forced to sign free agent Ben Tate to their roster in a desperate attempt to replace Bell, but the offense was nowhere near the same without him. Pittsburgh lost its first playoff appearance in two years, and left many wondering what might have transpired if they had their star running back on the field that night.
With injuries to Maurkice Pouncey and Ben Roethlisberger the Steelers can ill afford to lose another starting player on their offense. Williams’ role on the offense is less of a backup and more of an insurance policy. If something drastic were to happen to Bell he is there to alleviate some of the stress that would come with losing another starter.
DeAngelo Williams represents a sense of stability in the depth at the running back position that the Pittsburgh Steelers have not had for some time now. If he continues to have the impact that he has so far in his time in Pittsburgh he could eventually be known as one of the team’s best free agent signings in franchise history.
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