Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams enters the season finale with 899 rushing yards on the season, having compiled the majority of that yardage in the nine games that he has started in place of starting running back Le’Veon Bell.
If you ask him whether or not it would mean anything to him to finish the season with 1000 rushing yards, he will surely tell you that the only statistic he is interested in at this stage of his career is Super Bowl wins. That is the main reason that he gave for signing with Pittsburgh during the offseason.
If you ask the men up front whether or not it is important to get him the 101 yards on the ground needed to crack that barrier, however, you will find that there is a different answer. The offensive line wants to get Williams to 1000 yards, and they are hoping to achieve that today.
“We’ve been aiming for [1000 yards] ever since he got the starting role”, right tackle. Marcus Gilbert was recently quoted as saying according to Jeremy Fowler writing for ESPN. Of course, Williams started the first two games of the season while Bell was suspended, but resumed the starting role permanently when Bell suffered a knee injury after six games.
And why wouldn’t they, honestly? It is as much their accomplishment as it is the running back’s. Having an 1000-yard rusher on your resume as an offensive lineman is still something to be proud of in this league, especially as the running game becomes less and less prominent.
It also doesn’t help that the Steelers finished below their own expectations last season in terms of the running game, where they finished ranked just 16th in the league averaging 109.5 rushing yards per game, and averaging just 4.1 yards per carry.
In recent weeks, the team has slipped out of the top 10 as the focus has shifted away from the running game. They currently rank 13th, averaging 112.9 rushing yards per game, and would no doubt like to try to crack the top 10. The Packers are currently holding the 10th spot with 118.3 yards per game.
In order to crack the top 10, assuming the rankings hold, the Steelers would need to out-rush the Packers by 81 rushing yards today, which is admittedly not a very likely scenario, but the running game has still unquestionably improved.
Last season, the Steelers had just 10 rushing touchdowns, and this year have 16, the third-most in the league. They also average 4.6 yards per carry, which ranks tied for fourth. And there is no question that Williams certainly had a lot to do with improving those numbers, with his 11 rushing touchdowns.
Getting Williams those 101 yards would be an achievement for him, for the line as a group, and for the offense as a whole, regardless of how much it means to anybody in that equation, especially considering he only started 10 games, including today. It may be little consolation should they fail to make the playoffs, but it would be no less an accomplishment.