While the big news of the day turned out to be the announcement of the Pittsburgh Steelers signing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a new five-year contract that will tie him to the organization through the 2019 season, they were also able to acquire a new towel boy that will allow him to dry his hands between snaps.
At least, that is how new Steeler DeAngelo Williams characterized one of the many roles that he is ready, willing, and able to fulfill as he sets out to help Pittsburgh reach and win a Super Bowl.
Williams, who will soon turn 32, was signed to a two-year contract worth a reported $4 million after being a salary cap casualty of the Panthers following an injury-plagued year that limited him to six games in the regular season and the first time in his career in which he averaged under four yards per carry.
Even a cursory glance into his personality reveals a shockingly different character than the Steelers’ last attempt to find a complementary running back for Le’Veon Bell when they struck a two-year deal with LeGarrette Blount last offseason. And you couldn’t sell me on the idea that that absolutely wasn’t intentional.
Coming off Bell’s rookie season, the front office was concerned that they felt they had no viable alternative to play behind Bell, and they believed that Blount could be the answer. Head coach Mike Tomlin gave the free agent the hard sell as he described their relationship as nearly that of co-starters, but that proved to be far from the case.
Outside of his two touchdowns and one 100-yard rushing game, Blount’s presence on the team consisted largely of negative contributions. He became Bell’s companion, and evidently a negative influence, which resulted in the pair being arrested after being found to be in possession of marijuana.
This is an indiscretion for which Bell will be serving a two-game suspension to begin the 2015 season, and toward which the front office believes that Blount’s influence contributed. He soured relationships within the locker room before ultimately walking off the field after a game in which he played just one snap in pass protection.
I can’t in my wildest imagination see Williams pulling any sort of antics like that. Not only is it not in his nature (by my perception), it’s also not conducive to the role that he himself envisions with the Steelers.
The veteran ball carrier understands where he is at this point in his career, and has no qualms about taking on a reserve role behind an elite running back in his quest to win a championship by the time he has to call it a career.
Were I to compare him to a signing from last season, it would be Arthur Moats, who has proven to be an exceptional presence in the locker room and a contributor on the field when asked, which he was able to parlay into a three-year, $7.5 million contract.
I have little doubt in my mind that Williams will be a strongly positive presence off the field, and I also believe that he has “lots of gas left in the tank”, in his words, to provide an early lift at the beginning of the season and a reliable resource from that point on.