You don't have to go far to find an expert who thinks Le'Veon Bell is the best running back in the NFL. The Pittsburgh Steelers running back who shattered franchise records and was arguably the most dynamic player across the league in 2014 is likely to be considered irreplaceable. However, when the Steelers signed DeAngelo Williams in the offseason, no one saw him doing what he is going in 2015 as the full-time starter with Bell out for the season with a knee injury.
"Le'Veon Bell has set the climate for that with what he's been able to do over the course of his career," coach Mike Tomlin told Jason Mackey of DKonPittsburghSports.com. "It's become our personality. DeAngelo has done a nice job of getting up to speed and contributing in that area. I really think his contributions have been on the upswing largely over the course of the year in that area. I expect that to continue. He's an asset, and I know he was on Sunday."
Williams won't eclipse Bell's ridiculous statistics of 2014, but what he has done is match Bell, in terms of production, in both the running game and in the passing game in their split time in 2015.
Going into Week 13, Bell had registered 113 carries for 556 yards and 3 touchdowns. Williams has 115 carries for 563 yards and 6 touchdowns. In the receiving game, Bell had 24 receptions on 26 targets for 136 yards. Williams has 18 receptions for 225 yards.
Modest numbers for both running backs, but the fact Williams is matching Bell's production on the ground and through the air is a phenomenal sign for the Steelers offense trying to carry this team to back-to-back postseason berths.
So, what can be contributed to Williams' success, especially in the passing game? Arthur Moats, who trained with Williams this off-season has an idea.
"For him to come in and provide splash plays in the passing game is huge," Moats said. "Obviously Le'Veon is someone everyone was expecting to have a huge impact on the passing game. For DeAngelo to step up the way he's done, it's a testament to his work this offseason."
However, it isn't just in the passing game Williams has turned heads. He lost 15-pounds before the season, and it has made a difference.
"You can just tell he's fresh out there," Moats said. "He's more shifty. I feel like he's playing with a lot of confidence, and he's helping us out."
Williams is more than the perfect replacement for Bell throughout the 2015 season, but seemingly the perfect teammate. Unselfishly wanting to simply get a championship on his resume before he hangs up the cleats.
"Since I got here, all I've wanted to do is be productive," Williams told Mackey. "With the absence of (Bell) or even him being there, I want to put pressure on the defense.
"As long as I'm doing that, I'm doing my job. It's nothing about having pride in the offense not changing. It's just being a professional and doing what it takes to win football games."
Let's hope the Steelers, and Williams, can win more football games, all the way to the team's 7th Lombardi trophy.