With the 2016 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certainly players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, has sent their stock rising or falling.
Player: RB DeAngelo Williams
Stock Value: Up
It’s not every 33-year-old running back who is able to see his stock rise in his 11th professional season. We just looked at a 33-year-old quarterback whose stock is trending the opposite direction in his 11th season. But that is not the case for veteran DeAngelo Williams, who is coming off a renaissance season in which he looked to be in his prime, and which set the stage for a bigger everyday role in the offense.
Building off of the article that I published earlier today, the Steelers are anticipated to involve Williams more in the offense when both he and Le’Veon Bell are healthy, which was not exactly the case last season. As I noted in that article, he averaged fewer than three carries per game in the five games in which they both started and finished together.
The reason cited for this change was not the need to lighten the load on Bell’s surgically reconstructed knee, but rather simply because he showed on the field that he can perform at a high level as the team’s primary back, even for an extended period of time.
Williams had an all-around excellent season last year that was perhaps deserving of Pro Bowl recognition, rushing for 907 yards on 200 carries at 4.5 yards per rush, doing so while starting 10 games. His 11 rushing touchdowns tied for the most in the NFL last year, and was also the second double-digit touchdown season of his 10-year career.
His 907 rushing yards are the third-most in his career behind two seasons in which he started at least 13 games, while his 4.5 yards per carry is the best mark of his career since the 2011 season, though he actually commands a career 4.8-yard rushing average.
Most striking was the influence that the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger brought to his game, as he posted career highs in the passing game with 40 receptions and 367 yards. Another surprising asset that he displayed was his excellent pass protection, which Pro Football Focus graded as the best in the league.
Williams is many things to many people, and among those things is a 33-year-old running back. But he has not been playing like one, and shouldn’t be expected to this year. He should be a nice one-two punch—not 1A and 1B—with Bell this year in a very explosive Steelers offense.