When Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert finally decides to call it career, you will likely be hard-pressed to find a better outside free agent signing of his better than linebacker James Farrior in 2002. With that said, the signing of veteran running back DeAngelo Williams in 2015 could ultimately wind up being his second-best outside free agent addition ever and especially if the 2016 season ends with the Steelers winning their seventh Lombardi Trophy in Houston.
With it now looking like starting running back Le’Veon Bell will miss the start of the 2016 regular season due to a four-game suspension, Williams will seemingly again be asked to carry the load for second consecutive start to a season. While the Steelers went 1-1 in their first two games of the 2015 season with Williams as their starting running back, the veteran managed to rush for 204 yards and 3 touchdowns in those contests in addition to adding another 20 yards receiving.
When Bell finally returned from his two game suspension, Williams was relegated to the backup role and he handled it as a professional. Over the course of the next five games, Williams saw very limited playing time and touched the football just 13 times in total. However, once disaster hit in the Week 8 game against the Cincinnati Bengals when Bell went down with a season-ending knee injury, Williams was right there to pick up where he left off after Week 2. From that point forward, he averaged 4.58 yards per rush and score 8 touchdowns on 146 carries and caught another 34 passes for 339 yards.
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned Williams’ pass blocking ability last season which was reportedly the best in the league in 2015 for running backs, according to Pro Football Focus. He wasn’t just reliable in that part of his game, he was dominant.
Colbert was able to get Williams signed to a two-year, $4 million contract in March of 2015 after he was released by the Carolina Panthers and it was an addition that I wrote beforehand hoped would happen. That deal had very little risk associated with it being as Williams was only given a $1.13 million signing bonus as part of the deal.
While Williams’ career in Pittsburgh might ultimately only wind up spanning two years depending on what happens after the 2016 season is over, he’s helped make the Steelers a better team during his short time with the franchise. Another solid performance by him this season in the team’s first four regular-season games could easily result in him being used sparingly the remainder of the season once Bell returns. Even if that happens, his signing will likely still go down in the books as one of the best early offseason outside free agent moves that Colbert ever makes should the Steelers enter Week 5 of the 2016 season with a record of 3-1 or better.