This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen. The Pittsburgh Steelers were riding an incredible run by All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell to a nine-game winning streak. And it looked like it might be a run that they could carry all the way to a seventh Super Bowl trophy. He was playing at that kind of level, truly.
But it wasn’t even by the end of the first quarter before the Steelers found themselves without him, as—as it turns out—he was dealing with a groin injury for the past couple of weeks, and it is an injury that flared up for him last night.
He said after the game that he knew by the second play of the game that it was going to be a problem, and he was right, as he was limited to just six carries on the day, the final being one that he came back out for, trying to give it another go. He picked up two yards, gingerly, before gingerly checking himself back out of the lineup.
It might be small succor at this point, considering the end results, but the Steelers did have a plan b with DeAngelo Williams, whom they signed in free agency in the spring of 2015 for the purposes of being there behind Bell when they needed him.
Though his rushing statistics might not really show it, he did play a good game, even if he picked up just 34 yards on 14 carries. He was hit for a loss on a couple of goal-line plays, at least one of which was the product of a miscommunication in the blocking scheme. Overall, the Patriots did a better job against the Steelers’ offensive line than was anticipated.
Williams also contributed with seven receptions for 51 yards, including a few that converted for a first down. Of course, he also scored a touchdown on third and one from six yards out. Considering how the season developed, his ability to come off the bench and playing a meaningful role was big for the offense on the day.
It is important to keep in mind, of course, how Williams’ season went. Obviously, he started the first three games of the season in place of Bell while he was serving a suspension. When Bell returned, he had a pretty limited role.
Then, in the second half of the season, he dealt with a knee injury that even required a cleanup procedure, and caused him to miss seven games. He only just returned for the regular-season finale against the Browns, during which he showed some rust, but also some tough running, and another touchdown—two, in fact, including one through the air.
The only work that he got in the postseason prior to last night’s game was just two carries at the end of the blowout Wildcard Round victory over the Dolphins, during which Bell was checked out of the game. He was pretty much coming off the bench cold, expecting not to see a role.