Surely a good percentage of the Pittsburgh Steelers fans reading the site today are not particularly interested in looking for the good in yesterday’s events, which saw the team lose in a pivotal game to a struggling division rival, while their primary playoff competitors sealed crucial victories at their expense.
But I simply don’t think it would be fair to dismiss out of hand yet another excellent performance by 32-year-old running back DeAngelo Williams, whose only blemish on the day was a failure to convert a fourth and one on the opening drive when the line could not get any penetration.
The crucial free agent signing finished the afternoon with exactly 100 rushing yards on 17 attempts, including two more touchdowns, also contributing six receptions for 53 yards. It was just the second 100-yard rushing, 50-yard receiving game of his career, both coming this season with the Steelers.
On the day, he averaged 5.9 yards per carry, in addition to 8.8 yards per reception, totaling 6.7 yards per 23 touches. He now has 899 rushing yards on 195 carries on the season for 11 touchdowns to go along with 38 receptions for 354 yards.
Consider how those numbers rank among the rest of the league. Currently, only four running backs have gone over 1000 yards for the season. if Williams rushes for 101 yards in the finale, he can join that group in spite of starting only 10 games.
His 899 rushing yards ranks ninth in the league, and third in the AFC, and he is the only back among the top-10 rushers still under 200 carries on the season. Yet his two rushing touchdowns in yesterday’s game moves him into a tie with Atlanta’s Devonte Freeman for the most rushing touchdowns in the league this season.
Le’Veon Bell had only eight rushing touchdowns in each of his first two NFL seasons. The last time that the Steelers have had a running back rush for double-digit touchdowns came in 2010, when Rashard Mendenhall had 13. Considering the way that Williams has run, it’s not out of the question that he ties that mark in the season finale.
Interestingly, most of Williams’ touchdowns this year have come in bunches. Only two of his rushing touchdowns have come unpaired in games this season, and he has four multiple-touchdown games this season, including two in the last three games, for five total touchdowns in that span.
All 11 touchdowns have come in his nine starts, as has close to 800 of his total yards. And yesterday was the fifth game of the season in which he managed to average better than five yards per carry, currently sitting at 4.6 for the season.
At the moment, the math is not in the favor of the Steelers playing in the Super Bowl this year, considering they don’t even control their path to the postseason. But Williams still deserves to receive Pro Bowl recognition for his renaissance-like season, which has been arguably the second-best of his entire professional career, including the most receiving yards he has ever had.