Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert wasn’t kidding when he said that the team approached free agency just looking to ‘hold serve’. While they lost only one free agent, they also only signed one from the outside, they also re-signed four of their own players, and they may yet re-sign a couple more.
The Steelers, of course, very rarely delve much into free agency, with last offseason’s transactions being somewhat of an aberration, even if the majority of the deals reached a year ago were of the veteran-minimum variety.
But Colbert and company seem awfully pleased to have been able to acquire the one outside free agent that they did sign, former Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, who signed a two-year, $4 million contract to serve as the backup to Le’Veon Bell.
DeAngelo’s had a great career. He’s Carolina’s all-time leading rusher, but we still think he’s got some good football left in him, and he’ll provide good depth and competition for Le’Veon. His experience, I think, like James [Harrison], will provide a lot for Le’Veon, even though Le’Veon’s doing some pretty good things to this point on his own. I think having a guy like DeAngelo to lean on will only benefit Le’Veon, and benefit the team.
While Colbert acknowledged that the Steelers may be taking a bit of a gamble on a running back that will soon turn 32 and is coming off an injury-riddled season, comparing it to last year in adding a veteran to be Bell’s backup, he believes Bell’s status is different, which makes the signing different as well.
LeGarrette Blount, of course, was chagrined with his decreasing playing time to the point that he walked off the field prior to the conclusion of a game in which he took just one snap in a pass protection role.
Williams is coming into the organization with the understanding of his role, and his demeanor is a complete 180 from that of Blount’s, so Colbert doesn’t seem to be worried on that front, and he believes that he can still contribute on the field when necessary.
You always want to have a fallback, someone to complement. A starting running back, I don’t care how good they are, it’s a little hard to play every down. You want to have someone who has been there, done that, but still not worn out, either. You still want some life and you want them to accept the role that we presented.
And Williams does appear to be a back who still has a lot to offer, provided that he could stay healthy, which is admittedly a question. He still has a burst when he is at 100 percent, even if he isn’t much of a yards after contact guy any longer. Equally as important is that he is reliable in pass protection.
Of course, he will be needed more early in the season than later, as Bell is expected to face a two-game suspension. Williams figures to be the front runner to receive the bulk of the running back duties during that time, and if he helps the team get through that early stretch, then he’ll have already accomplished much for the Steelers.