DeAngelo Williams is known to be a little outspoken. Here's something I wrote a while back on this very topic. The added responsibility of taking the starting position for Le'Veon Bell for the second year in a row has not curbed this. He recently did an interview with Trib Live, and was asked about the suspension.
Williams' response? "Knock that off, man".
Williams clearly does not want to talk about his teammate's potential suspension. This is not necessarily a declaration of Bell's innocence, but rather that speculation needs to end on this subject. Williams was quite specific when asked about his reasoning for not wanting the speculation to continue.
"Everybody has their own take on stuff on what they would've done or how they would've handled certain things, and they don't know what's going on with the situation … None of us know. Let's take the sit-back-and-watch approach. ... We are not so sure in this case that he made a mistake. We don't know the complete story."
This, although a completely fair thing to say on this subject from a teammate, is on the optimistic side. Bell claims that he missed a drug test(s) due to changing a his cell phone number. This would seem like a fair reason in of itself, as he would not be able to know when/where the drug test would be, as the NFL would be contacting him by the wrong number. The reason why this is unrealistically optimistic is because of a 2014 rule change that stipulates that it is the responsibility of the player to notify the league of any changes in their phone number or other methods of contact. This means that the fact that the league could not contact Bell over his drug test, it is still Bell's fault. And as we should all know by now from what seems like constant coverage is that the NFL equates a missed test to a failed test.
On the other hand, if the appeal procedure finds that the league did not do all it could to contact Bell, then the appeal could go in Pittsburgh's favor. Winning the appeal also seems unlikely, due to the history of success (or lack thereof) for appeals when drug use is involved. Nonetheless, the appeal is scheduled for mid-August according to coach Mike Tomlin.
Bearing in mind Williams was the starter for Carolina for ten years, and this coming season would be his second with the team, his experience has surely got to alleviate any kind of discomfort over him starting. This is all despite that fact that he is the league's oldest running back (a position where durability and therefore youth are a necessity) at 33 years-old. Williams wanted to put away any doubts when he said:
"It went from ‘If DeAngelo can fill the role' to ‘How long he can hold up?' to ‘He can't keep doing this.' There are always going to be questions, I know that, but I will continue to let my play answer those questions. Can the Steelers win Super Bowl LI? That's the question I want answered."
This is certainly the question we all wanted answered with a firm "yes" and a seventh Lombardi trophy for the Steel City.
Williams clearly does not feel the pressure of starting in September for one of the Super Bowl favorites. After his performance with Bell out at the beginning and end of last season, and career stats, it can be forgiven if he's a little cocky. His reasoning on the lack of pressure is the fact he is the backup, and therefore less is expected of him:
"Being the backup, as they call me, I have no pressure on me at all. I actually like that title because it is a non-pressure position."
This, I am not so sure of. Of course there is pressure. I will repeat myself -- he is starting over the number one running back for one of the favorites for the Super Bowl as the oldest player at his position, after an injury at the end of last season. I think that anyone would feel the pressure, and anyone that wouldn't feel the pressure is crazy.
If there is any comfort, it is offensive coordinator Todd Haley's comments:
"We have a year's work with DeAngelo ... We know what he likes and what he is really good at, and that's very comforting as a coaching staff."
This is good. It is good to know the team has faith in him, which could possibly explain William's nonchalant comments about starting. Still, it would be difficult to imagine that Haley wouldn't be more comfortable with Bell starting.
All in all, one thing is clear -- Williams is content being the backup to Le'Veon Bell, even with the ever probable likelihood that he will be starting the season. After a performance like last year (all things considered) and a year in the scheme, it is understandable. The question is, should we as fans be comfortable? Some of William's comments could be seen as rather overconfident, which raises some red flags. As well as that, his deflection away from the Bell issue could mean that he is trying to build confidence in himself, or trying to avoid talking about it to retain focus.
His point about Super Bowl LI could be seen as either not wanting to talk about his age and ability to play or could mean he is genuinely sick of being asked these types of questions. My money would be on both; being the oldest running back in the league surely would create some kind of worries about health and durability. Regardless, chances are he will be starting, and he and Todd Haley ares saying they are fine with, so why shouldn't we be fine with it, at least for now?