The top two spots on the Pittsburgh Steelers running back depth chart are not up for debate. Le'Veon Bell is one of the best backs in the NFL, and DeAngelo Williams is the proven veteran running back who is expected to carry the torch throughout Bell's suspension to start the season, however long that may be.
And there is the rub. That Le'Veon Bell suspension certainly shakes up the team's depth chart after Williams. Whether Bell misses one game, or the complete three-game suspension, his absence will make the Steelers' running game dicey at best. After Williams, the team has Josh Harris, who played sparingly after coming off the team's practice squad in 2014 and played in the team's 2014 playoff loss, and Dri Archer in terms of experienced running backs. Although Archer carries more experience than Harris, Archer's size and rookie season is enough to make fans wonder if he is more suited to run the football or be more of a receiving running back.
Mailbag: Will the Steelers stumble without Bell?
In the weekly BTSC Mailbag article, I sit down at headquarters and answer the questions of our awesome Twitter followers. Some intriguing questions in this one...
Other than Archer and Harris, the team is only looking at remaining players who have no NFL experience at all. In other words, what you see is what you get in terms of the final members of the team's depth chart.
With that said, are Josh Harris and Dri Archer players who will be able to hold down the fort, in terms of depth, until Bell returns from suspension to help the team re-gain their previous stability at the running back position? Only time will tell, but the training camp battle which is about to ensue at the position will be one worth watching.
Harris is the more prototypical running back in terms of size, but Archer's speed is extremely tantalizing. Who comes out as the primary back-up to Williams will largely depend on their play in training camp and in the preseason, but also how the team looks to deploy these backs when they are on the field. Could Todd Haley utilize Archer more like a Dexter McCluster style player who is able to run the ball on occasion from the backfield, but is more used as a receiver and gimmick player? Or will the team try running the smaller running back in between the tackles as they attempted in 2014 with minimal success?
Either way you look at it, the team will be relying on some lesser known names to provide balance within the offense during Bell's suspension. Some might argue Williams will literally carry the load, and his back-up isn't a worthy discussion, but the reality of the situation is you can't expect a 10-year veteran running back to stay in the game as an every down back, every quarter of every game. If that is the case, the team has one of two options. Rely on the lesser known players to provide play-making ability when they see the field, or become a pass-oriented offense until Bell returns.
Both scenarios could play out, but if the team wants to keep Ben Roethlisberger healthy, balance should remain the ultimate objective, and that could be with players with the last names of Harris and Archer.