If you have longed for the days of the Pittsburgh Steelers pounding the ball at will on tired, weakened opponents then you are about to get your wish. The Steelers bucked conventional wisdom last night when they drafted Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell in the second round of the NFL Draft. With Alabama running back Eddy Lacy still on the board, it seemed a forgone conclusion he would be the selection.
It was the durable and hard-running Bell that got the call though. Reports of Lacy having a significant toe injury pushed him down the board where he eventually went to the Packers.
Let me be clear in my opinion of this selection. I firmly believe Bell could have been had in the third round but this is simply my own opinion. I like Bell. I’ve seen a lot of him over the last couple of years here in Big Ten country. I cannot fault the front office of the Steelers if this was a guy they had on their board and a guy that they coveted. You do what you have to during the draft.
With that said, the direction of the Steelers’ offense under Todd Haley could not be more clear. Following the playoff loss in Denver in January of 2012, Art Rooney II said they wanted to ‘tweak’ Ben Roethlisberger’s game. This is no longer a tweak. It’s a complete twist, torque and pull as the Steelers clearly are headed away from the passing game and back to a ground game despite a league that has evidently gone in the opposite direction.
With the drafting of Bell and the signing yesterday of former Arizona running back LaRod Stephens-Howling to go with Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, it doesn’t exactly take a year-long study to see where the offense is heading.
The argument of course is by running the ball more you keep Roethlisberger healthier and there is truth in that but Roethlisberger has always played the game with the mentality of a sandlot quarterback. He will not let plays die and he will look to do whatever he can to make a big play. Roethlisberger was having an excellent year before getting injured against Kansas City last year but those that claim the offense was ‘clicking’ are mislead.
Go back and analyze how often the Steelers were in third and long situations only to have Roethlisberger bail them out with big throws. The running game clicked last season for all of three games and while a good running attack is important, it cannot be the whole offense. I have no problem if the Steelers want to find balance in the offense. Good offenses have balance, but the play-calling and execution on first and second down must get better.
In the third round, the Steelers selected Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton. He will provide some added speed to the passing game and could be a viable replacement to Mike Wallace who was also drafted in the 3rd round. Do not be mistaken though because Wheaton’s speed isn’t close to Wallace’s but few guys are.
Should Wheaton elevate to the second or third wideout position, this would give the Steelers three top receivers under six feet tall. While the overall speed is nice, the lack of a big target for Roethlisberger still lacks.
I certainly don’t have all the answers but I have right to be critical just as I have the right to praise the team I’ve rooted for over 40 years. Trust me when I say if this offense becomes everything they want it to be I’ll be the first to admit it.
DAY THREE THOUGHTS: Have to believe the Steelers will look to add a safety in the fourth round and then perhaps spend their remaining picks on inside linebacker, offensive line and perhaps QB in the final round.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.