Based on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon-less playoff performance, it is clear the depth at running back is a weak point on the Steelers’ roster. With Le’Veon Bell sidelined for the first three games of the 2015 season, the Steelers will have to come up with a strong contingency plan that won’t leave fans disappointed and obsessing over counterfactuals. "If we’d only had Bell…"
The Steelers have come up with such a plan by signing former Panthers’ RB DeAngelo Williams in March. In Williams’ the Steelers have found the absolute antithesis of LaGarette Blount. Blount was completely entitled and obnoxious, annoyed he was playing second fiddle to the more talented Bell. Likely fearing he was fast becoming a post-Lovesexy Sheila E., Blount walked off the field before a certain game was over, preferring to risk unemployment … wait, wait. Oh, that’s right. The Patriots met him in the parking lot with a contract.
But I digress. Williams’ attitude couldn’t be farther from prima donna Blount. After signing, Williams told Steelers.com, "I want to come and in and help them be productive on offense. Whether that means me coming off the bench, giving the offensive line water, making sure Ben Roethlisberger’s towel is dry so he can wipe his hands and throw the ball better—whatever it takes for us to win a Super Bowl, I’m willing and able to do it."
Bell as the lone back worked out well until Le’Veon injured his knee and forced the Steelers to sign Ben Tate in desperation. A better combination for the upcoming season will be Bell and Williams. Even while Bell’s suspension is in effect, Williams should be a helpful mentor in terms of character and integrity. Somehow I can’t see Williams and Bell driving around smoking marijuana and getting arrested.
I’m even more optimistic now that former-Vikings RB coach James Saxon is in the mix. When Kirby Wilson was in that position, I got annoyed every time the Steelers ran the ball. While they had some success, it seemed the players had been coached to do some sort of River-Dance-Meets-Bear Wrestling maneuver before executing the play. I found myself saying something about it every time it happened, which, based on the frequency of my broken-record commentary, was nearly every time the ball was handed off.
With Saxon at the helm, Bell was patient when he needed to be, and authoritative and quick when the situation demanded. There were very few times I had to turn to a Deepak Chopra meditation to calm down because a running back had opted to do dance moves and get brought down for a loss instead of just hitting the hole and running. (After all, they are called running backs, not dancing-and-fall-to-the-ground-for-a-loss backs.)
Bell is an incredibly talented player, but I also attribute his success to Saxon, who coached Adrian Peterson during his time with the Vikings. Munchak and the offensive line also deserve just a tad, joking obviously, of the credit for Bell’s phenomenal season.
The main missing piece at this point is depth. Hopefully Dri Archer, Josh Harris, and the off-season acquisitions will yield not just a reliable contingency plan, but also reliable, consistent talent.