James Saxon's challenge not just developing starter, but developing depth

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Peterson was clearly the unquestioned back, just like Le'Veon Bell will be in 2014. But what Saxon can do to develop those behind Bell may be his biggest challenge as the Steelers' running backs coach.

No one's asking Steelers running backs coach James Saxon to turn Le'Veon Bell into his former protege, Adrian Peterson.

Bell cannot and will not be AP, no offense to him. But what Saxon can bring to him in the form of anecdotal history could be vital to his development.

"We had Adrian do this," he could say to Bell. "Adrian's main issue was that."

Or even just "footwork is what made AP great, you've got a lot of those same traits." Something to get the second-year emerging stud on the side of development. Few will ever be blessed with the natural running ability of Peterson, a likely first-ballot Hall of Fame player and possibly a top five rushing leader when it's all over.

Bell has something Peterson has never displayed through his career, though; the ability to be a receiving threat as well. Bell had 45 catches for 399 yards in 13 games as a rookie. Peterson had 29 catches last season, and has only had more than 40 or more catches in a season twice in his career. That's a new added weapon Saxon can help develop.

Perhaps most intriguing about his hire, though, is how he's moving from one team with an established player at the position to another. Bell won't be challenged for touches in 2014, just as Peterson wasn't during Saxon's tenure. But other players must be prepared to fill in as needed. Peterson suffered a torn ACL toward the end of the 2011 season, but rebounded to earn MVP honors in 2012. His 2013 campaign was dinged a bit with injuries, but something called Matt Asiada had carries in two games for the Vikings last year - one against Detroit, in which he rushed for 115 yards, and another against Philadelphia, in which he had three touchdowns.

Not bad for a nobody.

Saxon, as well as Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley, will have a similar challenge in 2014. Developing depth behind Bell is an underrated aspect of this offseason. The Steelers have some options at the position, and likely will be starting fresh with some new faces. Saxon's biggest challenge will be not just developing the feature back, but getting a few guys ready in case of injury.

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