The Pittsburgh Steelers already have themselves a few running backs who are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There was John Henry Johnson, who was followed by Franco Harris, and then Jerome Bettis followed years later. Had he not sabotaged his future with the Steelers, perhaps Le’Veon Bell would have been the next in line, eventually, perhaps a decade or so from now.
One of his backups for a couple of years, however, is about to make it into a Hall himself—specifically the Conference USA Hall of Fame, whose inaugural class later this year will include former Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams, who was instantly adopted by Pittsburgh despite only playing two seasons there following a long career with the Carolina Panthers.
Before he was drafted by Carolina, Williams distinguished himself with the Memphis Tigers in the early- to mid-2000s, while they were still a part of the Conference USA before moving to the American Athletic Conference a few years ago.
Williams is one of the greatest players in the school’s history—as should go without saying, given his inclusion in the conference’s inaugural Hall of Fame class—rushing for 6026 yards on 969 carries over four years. He scored 55 touchdowns on the ground and another five on receptions, of which he had 70 for another 723 yards. He was named the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year in each of his last three seasons there.
That career with Memphis—during which time Randy Fichtner was his offensive coordinator—was enough to get Williams drafted in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Panthers, where he would go on to have a distinguished career. In 2008, he rushed for 1515 yards and 18 touchdowns, and somehow didn’t even make the Pro Bowl. He would go over 1000 yards for the second and last time a year later, making the Pro Bowl for the only time.
For most of his career, Williams was paired with Jonathan Stewart, another first-round pick in 2008. They both rushed for over 1000 yards in 2009, a rare feat, and their dual pairing perhaps helped them both achieve long careers. The latter remains in the league.
The Panthers released Williams after the 2014 season, after which he was signed by the Steelers, knowing that he would have to start at the beginning of the season because Bell was suspended. After Bell tore his MCL, Williams became the starter.
He ended up starting 10 games that year, carrying the ball 200 times for 907 yards. He tied for the league lead with 11 rushing touchdowns and posted career-highs with Ben Roethlisberger with 40 receptions for 367 yards.
Williams played one more year in Pittsburgh, starting with a great game in the season opener against Washington in which he rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns, but he dealt with injuries for much of the season. His contract expired by the end of the year, and no team signed him.