The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered a big loss with All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell going down with a right knee injury in today’s loss against the Cincinnati Bengals. It is yet to be determined the extent of the injury, but he figures to miss time for sure, even if he is able to return this year.
But, at the very least, the team is in better shape than they have been to fill in for him with DeAngelo Williams ready and able to slide into the starting lineup, which is a role that he already filled admirably during the first two weeks of the season while Bell was serving a suspension.
Over the previous two seasons, the Steelers could not find an adequate way to replace him, for a variety of reasons, and they have gone 0-4 in the four games he has not played, including last year’s playoff loss.
But Williams is an accomplished, experienced veteran back who has committed himself to succeeding with the Steelers in the hopes of winning a championship, heeding the advice of head coach Mike Tomlin and dropping significant weight to get down to about 215 pounds, the weight he came into the league sporting a decade ago.
After Bell’s injury in the first half, the Steelers mostly aired it out, but Williams stepped in as needed, racking up 71 yards on the ground on nine carries, which included a big 52-yard run that showed off his improved speed, Pittsburgh’s longest running play of the season.
Williams also caught four passes for 39 yards, giving him a total of 110 yards for the game. it was his second game of the season in which he eclipsed 100 total yards, after rushing for 127 yards in the season opener.
In that game, Williams looked refreshed, and all-around impressive, averaging six yards per carry on 21 runs. The following week, he proved to be the goal-line specialist, punching it in three times from within two yards, tying the Steelers’ record with three rushing touchdowns in a single game.
Since then, the 32-year-old has understandably taken a back seat to Bell, arguably the best running back in the league, who came into the game averaging better than 100 yards per game on the ground. Bell finished the game with just 45 yards on 10 carries, adding 13 yards on two receptions.
Including today’s game, Williams now has 310 rushing yards on 63 carries, averaging a healthy 4.9 yards per carry. He has added 10 receptions for another 67 yards, giving him a total of 377 yards on the season. That equates to 5.2 yards per touch on 77 total touches through half of the season.
Williams may not be able to be a one-for-one replication for what Bell is able to give to this offense, but as far as second options go around the league, he has the capability of being among the best. The Steelers can still run their offense, and do so successfully, with the former first-round pick toting the rock, provided that he doesn’t wear down.