Now that we are winding down the regular season and the Pro Bowl voting has already come and gone, it’s time to make something clear: Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams deserves to be in the Pro Bowl, not simply because of the way that he has managed to fill in for Le’Veon Bell, but for what he has done in his own right, in a limited amount of time.
The Steelers have played 13 games, with Bell starting six of them. In those games, Williams had a very limited role, so his production has come very heavily biased toward the seven games that he has started this season.
And yet his statistics still stack up well, even without qualifying for the fact that he has only been a starter for a little over half of the season, which should not be a surprise, since he is on pace for his first 1000-yard rushing season since 2009.
Take a look at the numbers. Williams ranks 12th in the league in total rushing yardage entering Week 15 with 773 yards. That is pretty good in its own right, but when you consider what type of role he has been limited to, that is somewhat remarkable.
Only one running back, Thomas Rawls, has total as many yards as Williams this season in less than his 164 carries. In fact, the vast majority have at least 30 to 50 more carries on the year, with league leader Adrian Peterson topping out at 268 carries.
Only three backs with Williams’ yardage has been more efficient in their carries, as the 32-year-old is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, which is the same average that Peterson has been charting, which has gotten him to 1251 rushing yards on the season.
When qualifying for all running backs with at least 100 carries on the season, there are only seven running backs averaging more yards per carry—and one of them is actually Bell himself, who finished the season with 556 yards on 113 carries in six games.
But only two running backs in the league—Peterson and Atlanta’s Devonte Freeman—have more than Williams’ eight rushing touchdowns on the year, and they each have only nine. Freeman’s nine touchdowns have come in 193 carries.
In terms of making an impact, Williams’ five rushes of at least 20 yards still ranks 12th in the league, and only three backs ahead of him have done so on less carries—once again, one of them is Bell, who had an amazing eight explosive runs in his carries.
Williams is one of only 10 backs in the league with at least two runs of 40 yards or more, and only three have more than two. Only four qualifying backs have averaged a first down on a higher percentage of their runs than him as well.
By virtually any metric you can come up with, Williams has been a revelation not just for the Steelers this season, but for the league, and it deserves to be recognized. This does not even account for his exceptional work as a pass protector, or his ability to force missed tackles in both the running and passing games.
Just take a look at his numbers from the games that he has started, which will be Weeks One and Two, and from Week Nine on. In those seven games, he has compiled 142 carries, gaining 667 yards on 4.7 yards per carry, including all eight of his touchdowns. He is averaging 20.3 carries for 95.3 yards and 1.14 touchdowns per start.
Over a full season, that would prorate as 324 carries for 1525 yards and 18 touchdowns. The man deserves another Pro Bowl before he calls it a career, and he has unquestionably earned it.