Now that we have completed our look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster heading into OTAs, it’s time to take a look back at the team’s 53-man roster from last year’s regular season, for the purpose of revisiting the contributions of the players that are no longer with the team, and whether or not those contributions have been adequately replaced.
Roster turnover is just a natural fact of today’s NFL, which have only become more prominent since the advent of free agency more than two decades ago. It’s very rare for a team to return all 11 starters on one side of the ball from one year to the next, let alone to do so for both the offense and defense.
The Steelers are certainly no exception to that rule, and they figure to have a number of lineup changes from 2014 to 2015—more so than usual, perhaps, with the retirement of three starters on the defensive side of the ball alone.
We’ve just wrapped up our look at the four noteworthy defensive contributors that the Steelers parted ways with from last season, and as we turn our focus to the offensive side of the ball, one thing becomes obvious: these losses don’t seem to hurt nearly as much.
Let’s start with LeGarrette Blount, one of two key offseason free agent acquisitions last year on the offensive side of the ball. Blount was brought in to serve as the one-two punch with Le’Veon Bell, but as we all know, he never managed to finish the season on the Steelers’ roster—though he wound up with the Super Bowl champions.
Blount is a big back, one of the bigger backs in the league that still somewhat consistently produces, in fact, although his game is not nearly as predicated on power as one would think, which is something that is reflected in his underwhelming short-yardage performances.
By far the highlight of his tenure with the Steelers came in the third game of the season when both he and Bell individually topped 100 yards rushing, with Blount legging most of that out in the four-minute offense to close out a sweeping victory. He also added his second of two touchdowns.
In all, he totaled 266 yards on 65 carries with the Steelers, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. He scored two touchdowns, as mentioned, but also lost a fumble. Much worse than the fumble was the headaches that he was causing largely behind closed doors that caused one teammate to allude to his presence as a cancer after he was released.
His absence caused a major void on the depth chart last year, and that issue came to a head when Bell was injured in the season finale, forcing the Steelers to play without him during the postseason.
This year, Pittsburgh signed veteran DeAngelo Williams, who ironically should see even more work than Blount despite the fact that he is being brought in with the understanding that he is clearly behind Bell.
That is because Bell will be serving a suspension to begin the season, of course, and Williams was brought in partly to occupy that role. But the team also returns two second-year backs that should also help to bridge the gap that they were unable to traverse without their starter last year.