Le'veon Bell may well be every fans prospective workhorse back for the Steelers in 2014, but apparently not Head Coach Mike Tomlin's.
After a rookie season in which he gained 1,259 total yards through 13 games, Bell showed why the Steelers used their second round draft pick on him in 2013. A powerful, elusive runner who can catch and block, Bell seems poised for a breakout year behind a promising offensive line in an offense bursting with potential.
Speaking on NFL Total Access yesterday, Tomlin said that Le'veon Bell has had an impressive off-season so far.
"Le'Veon Bell has had a great off-season, he's really shown that he is excited about taking the next step in terms of work that he's done thus far, particularly from a conditioning standpoint."
However, unlike last year Bell has some strong running mates in the backfield that will also be looking to make significant contributions of their own.
LeGarrette Blount was signed in free agency to bring a bruising, powerful element to the Steelers run game, and showed last season with the New England Patriots that he can be effective, lethal even when he's used as the focal point of the rushing attack. Just look at his play-off performance against the Colts.
"LeGarrette Blount has a definite football playing personality", said Tomlin, "one that not only is evident on the field but in the locker room. I think he's going to be positive to our efforts."
Then of course, there is the "speed guy", as Tomlin calls him. 2014 third round draft choice Dri Archer possess blazing speed, and looks to be a part of the running and passing game for the Steelers this season.
At the end of the day there are only so many carries to go around in the backfield. Tomlin and the coaching staff's job is to decide what the best distribution of resources is. According to Tomlin, he is going to allow the players decide who receives what portion of touches and opportunity on the field through their performance in training camp and preseason.
"I'm excited about letting these guys sort themselves out from a division of labor standpoint," Tomlin said. "I know that they're all committed to being a significant component to what we do."
Mike Tomlin is saying all the right things. It's good for morale to have an open battle heading into camp and have nothing predetermined, especially when you have two great talents in Bell and Blount.
However, despite what Tomlin is saying, the starter's role and the lion's share of the carries are Le'veon Bell's and no one else's.
The second year future star was already becoming a cornerstone of the Steelers offense toward the end of 2013. With his ability to catch out of the backfield as well as his evident ability to run the football, which will surely only improve with experience and an improved offensive line, he looks to be the Steelers workhorse for years to come.