In DeAngelo Williams’ first three starts this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers had him working at a career-high pace of nearly 23 carries per game. Admittedly, he was producing at a high level, totaling 374 yards along the way while averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Over the course of his past two starts, however, Williams has only carried the ball a total of 25 times, with just eight carries coming last week, although he had a career-high seven receptions to go along with it for a total of 15 touches, finishing the game with 117 combined yards.
It makes me wonder what to expect for tonight’s game with regards to his workload. Will he be run until the wheels come off, or will Mike Tomlin hold him back as he airs it out? Ben Roethlisberger has averaged 44 pass attempts over the course of the last three games.
During the game before the bye week, the Steelers abandoned the run pretty early in the game. Williams had just a few carries early on, and they were not effective. After Landry Jones got hurt, and Roethlisberger came in, the offense mostly relied on the no huddle, which primarily is a passing offense, in part because he had not gotten the reps in practice.
It was only late in the game, with a commanding lead in the fourth quarter, that Williams got some more touches, finishing the game with a respectable 54 rushing yards on 17 carries, though the end result was ultimately not reflective of the day overall.
Last week, Todd Haley relied primarily on the short passing game as a replicate running attack, throwing a good number of screen passes amongst Roethlisberger’s season-high 55 pass attempts. As mentioned, Williams had just eight carries, on which he gained 29 yards, with a long run of seven yards, never getting an opportunity to get going.
Which will it be tonight against a Colts secondary that ranks in the bottom third in both rushing defense and passing defense? Indianapolis gives ups 273 yards per game through the air, which ranks 27th in the league. But they also surrender 115 yards on the ground, which ranks 24th. Both are inviting.
The Colts have given up 47 explosive plays through the air, tied for the most in the NFL. But they have also given up 10 explosive plays on the ground, which is tied for the third-most in the NFL as one of four teams into double digits.
They are one of only 10 teams to give up more than one run of 40 yards or more, as well, and have allowed ball carriers 4.2 yards on the ground per carry, which ranks in the bottom third in the NFL or thereabouts.
In spite of the heavy yardage, however, they only allow 19.2 percent of their runs faced to go for first downs, which is top-five in the league. So will they go back to working Williams hard, or have they worked out a new strategy to get him more involved in the passing game?