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2015 NFL Free agency: Panthers cut DeAngelo Williams, adding a candidate to the Steelers' search

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The 31-year old veteran's time in Carolina is up, but could he serve well as a mercenary for a Steelers backfield seeking depth?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams announced Monday the team had released him, according to David Newton of ESPN.

Although Williams was the franchise's all-time leading rusher, injuries and the emergence of Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton as the team's go-to rushers have cut into the former first round pick's effectiveness.

The Steelers, on the other hand, have the opposite problem in the sense their backfield is relatively thin.  Of course, Le'Veon Bell is the workhorse, finishing 2014 as the league's second leading rusher and arguably the best running back in football, but the All-Pro also has a realistic possibility of facing a two game suspension to begin the 2015 season.  Pittsburgh played one game without Bell in 2014, a 30-17 playoff loss to the Ravens that was far worse than the final score indicated.  Bell's rushing, receiving and blocking skills were noticeably absent as the team generated almost no rushing attack while Ben Roethlisberger was reacquainted with the Heinz Field turf on multiple occasions.

If the Steelers fail to re-sign Ben Tate, their current running backs would be Bell and second year players Josh Harris and Dri Archer.  Even with Bell, the Steelers stable of backs would be among the youngest in the league.

Williams, a nine-year pro with nearly 7,000 rushing yards, could provide some sound, consistent veteran leadership, as well as carry the torch for the duration of Bell's forthcoming two-game ban.  Williams has shared backfield work nearly his entire career and has produced, with a yards per carry around the five yard mark and he's produced at least 20 receptions in every season in which he's played in 16 games.  Since 2011 he's scored 18 touchdowns, which is fairly remarkable considering he was basically the third option for goal line rushes after Newton and Mike Tolbert.

Williams will likely come cheap in free agency, given his age and injuries last season.  And the Steelers could be wise to take a flier on a veteran player rather than invest in another running back via the draft.  His relatively small price tag coupled with Pittsburgh's lack of depth could make the former Memphis star a great fit in the Steel City.  Williams, however, has demonstrated the ability to produce and getting benched after Bell's return might not sit entirely well with him.  If Williams were to make an appearance in black and gold, he would probably need to see the field more often than LeGarrette Blount did.

Williams, however, does offer an interesting addition to the Steelers backfield, and the team can do worse than adding a proven veteran with a relatively insignificant amount of tread on his tires.