The Pittsburgh Steelers may not be seeing much of note at the moment from Josh Harris, who figures to be the third running back during Le’Veon Bell’s two-game suspension, nor his competition for that spot, Jawon Chisholm, but that should matter little in the grand scheme of things if everything actually goes according to plan.
And so far, that plan does seem to be going well. In order to prepare for the beginning of the season without their All-Pro in the backfield, the Steelers signed veteran DeAngelo Williams, asking him to drop weight down to 215 pounds in preparation for a starting role in Bell’s absence.
In three preseason games thus far, the 32-year-old former first-round selection has carried the ball 13 times for a total of 63 yards, which averages out to a healthy 4.8 yards per carry. That number includes a one-yard touchdown run. He also scored on a two-point conversion, has two runs over 10 yards, and also has one reception for 10 yards.
Equally important is that the veteran has done an admirable job in pass protection, throwing key blocks on multiple occasions, particularly against the Packers. It is a vital asset to have your starting running back be a reliable presence both in the backfield and coming out of the backfield as a receiver.
In preparation for his role as the starter for the first two games of the season, the Steelers gave Williams the starting nod for the team’s third preseason week game, which is widely regarded as the regular season tune up performance.
Though the starters lasted just five minutes in to the game over the course of two drives, Williams impressed, gaining 15 yards on three carries, including the team’s only rushing touchdown of the preseason and adding his lone reception of the exhibition schedule.
Given his position as the temporary starter, it is unlikely that Williams sees much, if any, work during the team’s final preseason game, with the same being said for Bell. Instead, we should see a lot of Harris and Chisholm, as well as Dri Archer, who may be given a bigger role in the first two games than many expect.
The reality is that the team has seen what it needed to see out of Williams through the three games that he has played, so it makes little sense to subject him to further contact before the carries start counting toward something lasting.
Rather, there is still much to learn from Harris and Chisholm, as well as much for them to prove. Williams has nothing to prove—at least to himself. He is supremely confident in his abilities, and is rightfully agitated when presented with the suggestion that he may not have an easy time starting for two games.
Williams may not have Bell’s youth, nor all of his abilities, but he has put together an impressive body over work over the course of the past decade, and he has provided more than encouraging tape this preseason. With him in the backfield, this offense is at least equipped to handle itself without its star running back for a period of time.