It's good to have options.
It would have been a good thing for the Steelers to have at running back as the 2014 season drew to a close. That's for sure.
Having the best all-around back in the NFL? That's fantastic. Le'Veon Bell ran for more than 1,300 yards and caught passes for more than 800 yards in 2014, the best combined yards from scrimmage in the NFL. He was so good, in fact, that his season-opening back-up, LeGarrette Blount, saw his utilization decrease to the point that he threw a contract-killing temper tantrum over it. It's hard to argue with continuing to run Bell when he broke 200 yards that night.
Training Camp Position Preview: Quarterbacks
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a career year in 2014. Backup Bruce Gradkowski is a former starter and is well-liked in the city. So how in the world is there a quarterback controversy in Pittsburgh? Simple: Landry Jones is still on the roster. For now.
The problem was the gaping hole left by cutting Blount. It didn't show up until the team hosted the Baltimore Ravens in Pittsburgh's first playoff appearance since 2011. Boy, did it ever show that night, though.
Hamstrung by Bell's injury suffered the week prior against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers' running options consisted of undrafted rookie free agent Josh Harris and mid-season Cleveland castoff Ben Tate. Neither wowed on the ground, and Tate let a pass bounce off his hands that Bell likely would have caught. It was intercepted by Terrell Suggs, effectively sealing a largely one-sided game.
As a result, the Steelers have found some options. To be fair, only one -- former Carolina Panther DeAngelo Williams -- is a known quantity. But he's a pretty good option, nonetheless. He's also absorbed the Steelers Way to a degree Blount likely couldn't have done in a century in Pittsburgh. That's a great thing, too, because it looks for all the world like Bell will be unavailable for the first three weeks of the season due to a violation of the league's substance-abuse policy. It would seem the one team-building exercise Blount participated in last season was sharing a doobie with the stud running back. Thanks, LeGarrette.
Williams brings a good veteran presence and an outstanding work ethic. He also has had a pretty fine career, at least when healthy. Twice since 2010, Williams has missed ten games due to injury. Some have labeled him injury prone, but that's probably unfair. "Old, for a running back" is probably the better description, considering he's 32 years of age.
The good thing, though, is WIlliams isn't likely to be counted on, outside of those first three games, to do anything more than keep Le'Veon Bell rested and keep his snap count down. After all, Bell had 373 touches in 2014. Keeping him fresher early in games will make him more effective later, and Williams can provide that.
Behind Williams, though, things a get intriguing. Much like at quarterback, the Steelers are relying on one or two inexperienced guys somehow wowing. However, at running back, there is actually a legitimate chance of that happening. Partly, it's the nature of the position, but there is talent there, too.
Harris is likely to be the defacto number-three entering camp. He looked good enough last year, and he spent his off-season becoming a James Harrison-like physical specimen. They really like his potential.
Dri Archer will return, though it remains to be seen what the team will do with him. He's somewhere between a runner and a receiver, and a master of neither. The athleticism is still outstanding, if he can harness it.
Then there are the rookies, Ross Scheuerman and Cameron Stingily. Put the two together and you have a decent option. Taken separately, they both have plenty to be concerned about. Scheuerman is just 200 pounds but isn't particularly fast or strong. He moves well, though, and has a great burst.
Stingily is bigger and slower, but stronger. He actually runs a lot like -- forgive me, Mike Tomlin -- Blount. He stays low, drives through tacklers and is still plenty quick on his feet. He has good vision and patience, too. If I had to pick between he and Scheuerman, I'd take Stingily without a second thought.
The position looks to be better than 2014 already, on paper. In Rochambeau, paper beats rock.
Does it also beat the Ravens?