The Pittsburgh Steelers understand at this point that running back Le’Veon Bell is not going to be joining them on the field on Sunday for the team’s season opener against the Cleveland Browns on the road. In fact, they seem to be resigned to the notion that they won’t be seeing him for a couple of months.
And they’ve made their peace with that. According to right guard David DeCastro, they see it as a challenge, and are ready to meet it.
He told reporters yesterday that the group feels as though they now have “a little something to prove”, meaning that they can find success on the offensive side of the ball—and particularly in the running game—without Bell in the backfield.
“We have to show we can do it without him”, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN quotes him as saying. “If we don’t do well against Cleveland, all these questions come up”, which is “why you have to do well, to eliminate those questions”. He also added that he enjoys the challenge.
The Steelers will take three running backs into Cleveland with them on Sunday, with second-year James Conner figuring to shoulder the bulk of the load. The team has thrown its weight behind him, believing that he is fully capable of doing everything they ask of the running back position to do in their offense.
Behind him will be veteran running back Stevan Ridley, who was signed late last season after Conner tore his MCL and had success running against the Browns, as well as rookie Jaylen Samuels, whom the team figures to make use of in the passing game. He may even get on the field in the slot at times while Conner is in the backfield.
But how far this group of backs goes will largely be dictated by what the offensive line—left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, left guard Ramon Foster, center Maurkice Pouncey, DeCastro, and right tackle Marcus Gilbert—is able to do against Cleveland’s front seven.
And if DeCastro’s comments are anything to go by, they are certainly not going to lack for motivation to put forth their best possible showing, to prove that they are as integral as anybody to the team’s offensive success. Even quarterback Ben Roethlisberger volunteered that very position on Wednesday.
All along, the locker room has tried to maintain the position that no one player is bigger than the team, and that was the message shot out from every bench in there on Wednesday when Bell chose not to report. It’s now up to them that the absence of one player is not going to have much of an impact on their ability to succeed and achieve their goals.