Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin gave free agent running back LeGarrette Blount the hard sell during the offseason, essentially telling him that he envisioned Blount and starter Le’Veon Bell as a one-two punch of sorts.
That tandem hit it off quite well on a personal level, establishing a friendship early on, as well as a chip on its collective shoulder for being excluded from the discussions of the best stable of running backs in the league.
It seemed that relationship got a little too close, however, as the two were arrested in August and charged with possession of marijuana, while Bell was also charged with DUI, though neither has received any formal discipline as of yet.
But once the regular season started, it seemed the workload might not be as balanced as we may have been led to believe. In the season opener, Bell logged 21 carries on 57 total snaps, while Blount only played six snaps.
Four of those snaps, however, were carries, and one of them was a seven-yard touchdown run. He again logged just eight snaps, with three carries, during the Thursday night loss, while Bell dominated the workload with 52 snaps.
Although Bell still received the lion’s share of work during Sunday night’s victory in Charlotte, Blount did receive a bit more playing time, even before the game was already out of hand.
12 of his 19 snaps came prior to the Steelers’ final drive, which was basically just a closing drive with the result already determined.
Though he carried four times for 42 yards on that final drive, he already logged six carries for 76 yards. His carries likely would have been greater had he not broken off a long, 50-yard run. He also put a pounding on a defensive back to end that drive with a seven-yard touchdown.
By that point, of course, Bell had already logged 21 rushes, accumulating a career-high 147 yards on the ground and breaking off the longest play of his young career, which went for 81 yards with the team backed up near their own goal line.
So far, after three games, Bell has seen the field for 161 snaps, or 79 percent of the Steelers’ offensive plays. His season-low came this past Sunday, playing only 72 percent of the team’s snaps.
Blount, meanwhile, has just 33 snaps, but 19 came on Sunday night, during which he played over a quarter of the team’s snaps.
Bell has 53 rushes for 315 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry with one touchdown, in addition to 13 receptions for 146 yards. Blount has 17 carries so far for 132 yards, averaging 7.8 yards per carry and two touchdowns.
It’s not quite the balance, yet, that was suggested early on, perhaps, but so far it seems to be working out well. After all, the two became the first pair of running backs for the Steelers to rush for over 100 yards in the same game in nearly three decades.