Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams is coming off a career game, in which he recorded the most yards from scrimmage (225) and touches (29) in a single game spanning the length of his 10-year career.
He is also 32 years old and suffered from some inflammation in his foot after Sunday’s game, a win in which he rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries and caught two passes for 55 yards.
And the Steelers need him to last another seven games, plus whatever slate of games that are able to carve out for themselves during the postseason, given that they only had the opportunity to play six games with Le’Veon Bell before he tore his MCL.
Despite that fact, Williams logged 80 snaps during the game, and his backup, Jordan Todman, saw just three, including one carry for three yards—only his second touch of the season—that he only got because the Steelers were giving the veteran a play off after a 53-yard run.
If you ask Williams, there is nothing to be made of his foot discomfort earlier in the week. He laughed off questions yesterday about whether or not he would play, saying that his day off of practice on Sunday was simply a coach’s decision.
Still, it does seem a bit out of place for Williams to be logging more touches than ever before in his career with the Steelers at the age of 32. It seems a bit odd that the Steelers made the effort to sign Todman after he was released, cutting a draft pick to add him to the roster, when he is now the backup.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley yesterday attributed it seemingly to ‘playing the hot hand’, saying that “when a guy is rolling like he was last week, you have to stay with the hot hand”.
He was asked about Williams and his workload throughout the rest of the season. While he said “that’s not for me to worry about”, presumably deferring to the head coach, he also said that “we discuss it and talk about it”.
Evidently those discussions also include Will Johnson, who actually served, for some still yet to be determined reason, as the Steelers’ goal line back during the season opener, when Bell was suspended and Todman was with just his first game with the team.
Haley mentioned Johnson unprompted when asked about the running back position, in spite of the fact that the team has worked to replenish the running back depth chart with the additions of Todman and, more recently, Isaiah Pead since the conclusion of the preseason.
Whether it’s Todman or Pead, or even Johnson, it would seem that it’s time for the coaches to start paying more attention to Williams and his workload as he approaches 100 carries to date on the season. He has unquestionably done very well up to this point for the Steelers, but he will do nobody good if his body breaks down from the workload. Sunday may be a good time to see the start of that shift if the flow of the game enables it.