Over the course of the past couple of years, the Pittsburgh Steelers have undergone an uncommon amount of change, which could have been largely correlated with the fact that the team had finished 8-8 in consecutive seasons while failing to advance to the postseason.
In deference to general manager Kevin Colbert, the attitude used to approach the offseason in those years was that this was an 8-8 team and these were 8-8 players. It’s little surprise that a lot of things changed during those years.
But the Steelers are now coming off a season in which they finished with a record of 11-5, going 8-2 down the stretch and winning their last four games to claim their first AFC North title since the 2010 season. Correspondingly, we’ve seen a great deal less change.
A series of factors produced the signing of free agent running back DeAngelo Williams, the primary driver being the looming three-game suspension for starting running back Le’Veon Bell. The higher ups spoke openly about factoring that into the equation when addressing the backup running back situation.
Of course, that would have been unnecessary had the last attempt to address the running back position just last offseason had not gone awry. We just covered the case of LeGarrette Blount, which led to his mid-season release before completing the first year of a two-year contract.
The two were signed to very similar, if not identical contracts, if memory serves, and I believe it goes without saying that Williams would never have been signed without the failures and ultimate release of Blount.
It’s also fairly evident that the shift from a player with Blount’s personality to that of somebody such as Williams was a deliberate move, even if the release of Williams and his subsequent availability was somewhat serendipitous, although not entirely unpredictable.
While the Steelers have generally shied away from players with character issues—at least those that were evident beforehand—there is a risk taken every now and then. Whenever they end up paying for one of those risks, they tend to turn to the other extreme, which in this case is the highly gregarious Williams.
Yet another subplot in this narrative is the fact that Williams was actually the team’s sole outside free agent addition. This naturally goes hand in hand with an improved roster that saw comparatively little turnover in relation to the past few offseasons.
The backup running back position was one of few spots in urgent need of being addressed. The lining up of supply and demand in this case saw to it that the team’s sole free agent move sought to address that spot.
Of course, the ultimate judgment on this decision will be determined on the field of play, and it shouldn’t take long, either, with Williams slated to start the first three games of the season, barring a reduction in Bell’s suspension. He appears to possess the personality that will be able to transition from starter to sparsely-used reserve with ease, which is what the Steelers are looking for.