Over the course of the previous two games, Pittsburgh Steelers starting running back DeAngelo Williams had carried the ball of total of just 25 times for only 83 yards, an average of only 3.3 yards per attempt.
The Steelers had been drifting away from the running game, for a variety of reasons exclusive to the in-game circumstances, including an impromptu shift at the quarterback position due to injury, which altered the game plan.
Prior to that, Williams had been worked hard as the starting running back, averaging about 23 carries per game, which was more than he averaged per game than at any point in his previous nine seasons, and led me to wonder if the Steelers had rethought their strategy with Le’Veon Bell already out for the year.
I think we got the answer to that question last night, as Pittsburgh rode Williams for 26 carries and 134 rushing yards for his third 100-yard game of the season, in six starts. He is averaging over 100 rushing yards per game when he starts, in spite of the fact that he averaged only 42 yards for a two-game span.
In fact, Williams was exceptional against the Colts’ front, even though he recorded just one explosive run of 21 yards against a front seven that had given up 10 of them, the third-most in the league, entering the game, and the Steelers had entered the game as one of the most explosive rushing offenses.
No, Williams’ performance was not so much of a blunt force trauma as a death by 1000 cuts situation. 12 of his rushes went for at least five yards, while he had seven runs that went for at least double digits.
And most of this came after a rather poor start. Outside of the 21-yard carry on the second offensive play of the game, Williams had just seven yards on six carries by the end of the first quarter, and 14 yards on 11 carries prior to the final drive on the first half—or 35 yards on 12 carries in total.
From that point, however, he took off, rushing for 99 yards on his final 14 carries of the game. on the second offensive series of the third quarter, he had three rushes of double-digit yardage in a four-play span for a total of 42 yards.
Though he already has six rushing touchdowns on the year, however, he did not find the end zone in this game, and, somewhat concerningly, he did fumble the ball twice. He lost the ball on the first fumble, which was the first fumble lost by a Steelers running back since LeGarrette Blount last season. It was also Williams’ third fumble on the season in 141 carries. He has never fumbled more than three times in his career, so that could be something to monitor.
Still, regardless of the fumbles, it was a very impressive game for Williams, who often turned losses into gains, and this has been a renaissance year for the 32-year-old back all around. He has on the season 697 rushing yards on 141 attempts for an average of 4.9 yards per attempt to go along with his six touchdowns, and is likely to threaten to record just his third 1000-yard rushing season of his career.