One name that has seen a resurgence in discussion lately is that of free agent running back DeAngelo Williams. Following an impactful pro wrestling debut, Williams joined ESPN’s Adam Schefter on his podcast to express his intentions on playing football during the 2017 season. During the interview, Williams also spoke of not closing the door on a return to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While Williams has not closed the door on a return to the Steelers organization, it seems that the team has closed the door for him, adding running backs Knile Davis and James Conner during the offseason. Due to a combination of age, injury and production, Williams may be disappointed to find out that the Steelers’ door was never open to begin with.
Earlier last season, I wrote about being cautious with Williams following his workhorse 2015 campaign in which he received 200 carries. Williams’ possesses a history of breaking down following a 200-carry season and last season was no different. The former Steelers running back was limited to just nine games after battling a mid-season knee injury and his production suffered as a result.
Williams finished last season averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, a career worst for the 11-year veteran. While on occasion, a player’s overall numbers do not adequately represent the ins and outs of their season, Williams’ numbers look even more deflating when you take a closer look into the fine details of his 2016 campaign.
If death comes in threes, then there are three very important statistics that have put the nail in the coffin of Williams’ career as a Pittsburgh Steeler. For starters, only 8.2 percent of Williams’ carries went for over 10 yards in 2016, a significant drop from the 11.5 percent he posted during his 2015 campaign. His first down conversion percentage also dropped from 27.3 percent in 2015 to 23.2 percent last season. But the most troubling statistic of them all is tied largely to Williams’ lack of burst through the hole as almost half (49%) of his 2016 carries went for two yards or less.
Williams will be 34 at the start of the 2017 NFL season, an age that many running backs fail to see. While Williams’ ability to play a grueling position to the age of 34 and possibly beyond is a great testament to his consistency, it is likely time for the curtain call on his Steelers’ career.
While Williams’ will likely not be a part of the Steelers 2017 story, the veteran running back has played a very huge part in providing the foundation that has brought the team to this point. The door may be closed on a 2017 return but the door on appreciating Williams contributions during the team’s times of need is always open. And for that, the Steelers can say thank you to DeAngelo Williams.