Short of the first quarter, you would have to say that things went pretty well overall for the Pittsburgh Steelers last night, as they defeated the Redskins in their season opener by a score of 38-16, including five offensive touchdowns and a field goal (and yet no two-point attempts, amazingly enough).
A big component of that success was veteran running back DeAngelo Williams, who is in his second season with the Steelers, but his 11th season overall, and he had one of his best overall games since joining Pittsburgh 17 games ago. He rushed for 143 yards on 26 carries, which is the second-most he has had as a Steeler, and his 171 all-purpose yards is also the second-most he has had with the team.
Yet the fact that he scored multiple times was nothing new. In fact, it was something that he did four times in 2015. He has now scored multiple times in five of the 11 games that he has starters for the Steelers, and I’m just going to go out on a limb and call that impressive.
It was also, by the way, one of the most efficient performances that he has had in Pittsburgh, as he averaged 5.5 yards per carry. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry on the season in 2015, which is a very solid number. Last year, he only topped 5.5 yards per carry in a game three times, one of them being a game in which he did not start and had nine carries, including a 55-yarder.
It’s really difficult to throw many more accolades on Williams, who has been one of the Steelers’ great free agent additions over the past few decades, given the impact that he wasn’t even supposed to have as a backup running back.
When the Panthers released Williams following the 2014 season, many were seemingly ready to write off the former Pro Bowler who was soon to turn 32, assuming that he had little left in the tank, but working with the Steelers’ offense and behind a solid offensive line has been nothing short of a rejuvenation.
In fact, he became the oldest running back to record a 100-yard game with at least two touchdowns since Jerome Bettis did it in his final season in 2005, in the infamous snow game against the Bears in the 14th week of the season that ended a long Super Bowl drought.
Le’Veon Bell is an exceptional and unique talent, but there have been enough occasions over the past three years where the Steelers had to turn to another running back—some of them through no fault of his own—that it became necessary to have a stable number two.
The front office probably didn’t realize that they were actually bringing in a Pro Bowler, as Williams should have been in 2015 after he finished tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns despite only starting 10 games. And just as with last season, the offense is hardly missing a beat while Bell is serving a suspension to start the year.