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2016 South Side Questions: Will Steelers Lighten Williams’ Load In Last Start?

The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: Will the Steelers lighten the load on DeAngelo Williams in his final start before Le’Veon Bell’s return?

Last season, veteran running back and Steelers backup DeAngelo Williams played in 16 games and started 10. He had a light load in the games in which he did not start, and most of his 200 carries were compiled in those 10 games.

Through the first two games of the 2016 season, however, Williams has already accumulated over a quarter of his total carries from the 2015 season, having rushed the ball 58 times, including 32 carries on Sunday against the Bengals.

While he has rushed for 237 yards—the most in the league through two weeks—plus another 66 yards on 10 receptions, with three total touchdowns, and has been instrumental in the team’s offensive success through the first two games, it may be wise for the team to start thinking long-term for this season.

It is not as though the Steelers should need any further evidence as to why it would be wise to preserve their running backs a bit if they could. Bell suffered injuries the past two seasons that kept him out of the playoffs in the case of 2014, and for most of the season, plus the playoffs, with respect to last year.

Williams also missed the playoffs due to a late injury, and while none of these injuries were the result of wear and tear due to workload, it would seem prudent to provide a greater distribution of touches next week.

Part of the reason for this is because the Steelers have indicated that they intend to make greater usage of Williams in conjunction with Bell in comparison to last season, during which the veteran hardly played for most of the games in which Bell was on the field.

If Williams is still going to be getting a reasonable number of carries from here on, then maybe Daryl Richardson and Fitzgerald Toussaint—each of whom got one carry against the Bengals—can share in on the workload for this one game at least before the team has their one-two punch in place.

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