Over the course of the first two games of the season, running back DeAngelo Williams compiled 204 rushing yards on 41 attempts, three rushing touchdowns, and 20 receiving yards on five receptions while logging 114 of a possible 130 snaps.
In the past two weeks since the return of Le’Veon Bell from suspension, the 32-year-old veteran has just 11 snaps and three touches, all carries, for a total of seven yards, though that includes a nice long run of eight in the last game against the Ravens.
The Pittsburgh Steelers brought Williams in because they knew that he could be both of these backs that he has shown in each pair of games. He proved amply capable of being the featured back of the offense if necessary, but he also possesses the demeanor to play the role of the decidedly number two back.
This was the same circumstance that LeGarrette Blount failed to navigate last season, though the season was flip-flopped a year ago. When Williams was brought in, he knew that he would be starting early in the year. Blount had no such impression, and yet, ironically, he would have been the starter during the postseason due to an injury that Bell suffered in the regular season finale.
But Blount could not handle the role that Williams is currently occupying, the sparsely-used second fiddle. Perhaps the former was lured here with promises of a bigger role, while the latter knew what he was expecting, and that played a role in the differences between the two.
Nevertheless, Williams has done nothing but ingratiate himself to his teammates and to the coaching staff since coming here, and they have noticed. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley spoke about it on Thursday, and about how he would like to get the veteran more snaps.
But he also fully acknowledged the dilemma that he faces—a good one to have, when you have an understanding veteran—that being how to find those snaps, which requires either taking Bell off the field or simply not putting it in his hands.
Haley has had both on the field for a couple of plays the last two weeks, and is surely something that we continue to see, with variances added, over the course of the season, but whether or not he is ever able to reliably get Williams the snaps that he deserves remains to be seen, as Bell’s performance simply demands those snaps.
The third-year All-Pro just turned in a 129-yard rushing performance and has scored a touchdown in each game. He showed what a weapon he could be in his first game back with 70 yards on seven receptions, though that opportunity has diminished with the injury at the quarterback position.
The offense has had a long week to marinate over the game plan and how it might unfold entering the second quarter of the season, so it will be interesting to see what tweaks if any are made to how things are run, and that includes a potential, albeit slight, increase in Williams’ workload, something that he deserves, rather than demands.