The Pittsburgh Stelers offense survived, even thrived, during its two games served without starting running back Le’Veon Bell, thanks in large part to the fine performances of his new backup, longtime Panther DeAngelo Williams, who rushed for 204 yards on 41 carries with three touchdowns.
Williams also caught five passes, but he managed to gain just 20 yards in total on those receptions, and he also dropped one of his six total targets. Of course, he was not placed in ideal situations to make plays, outside of his 11-yard reception.
But it figures to be in the receiving game that Bell’s return should have the greatest impact, which is not to disparage what the veteran Williams has been able to accomplish over the course of his career as a receiver. But the third-year All-Pro is simply in another class.
In his second season, Bell caught 83 passes for 854 yards and three touchdowns, averaging over 10 yards per reception while forcing an astounding 29 missed tackles. He posted 10 explosive plays through the air while successfully fielding about 80 percent of his targets.
That, there, is the key to the impact that he has as a receiver in this offense, because he has a rapport not only with his quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, but he is also in sync with his offensive line and has shown an aptitude for lining up his blocks down the field to maximize his gains.
Facing a Rams defensive front today that had a tendency to play the run on the way to the quarterback, there certainly is a fair chance that Bell can go off today both on the ground and in the air as an outlet for Roethlisberger to escape pressure.
Dumping off the ball to the back is something that the veteran quarterback had been averse to through much of his career, and while that aversion began to die down with the adaptation of Todd Haley’s offense, it wasn’t until he saw what Bell could do with the ball in his hands in open space that he really bought in to the idea.
The results of last season speak for itself, as he shattered club records for receiving yards and receptions from the running back position, and his dual threat of running and receiving helped him establish a new high mark in franchise history for yards from scrimmage.
Williams has shown himself to be a capable starting running back, and now, an excellent complementary piece to an All-Pro. As well as he played, getting Bell back is certainly an upgrade, and even Williams is excited to see him carry the ball in the regular season again.
Unless he struggles early after having been away from contact for a few weeks, don’t anticipate to see a great deal of Williams in this game, as the Steelers seem eager to break out their new toy and play with it.