The biggest question facing the Pittsburgh Steelers and their running backs isn’t so much about who as it is about “when.” In other words, when will will Le’veon Bell come off his suspension? Right now he will miss the first three games of the season but he is appealing.
What that means is how do the Steelers proceed? I’m going to assume that Commissioner Roger Goodell sticks with the three-game suspension for purposes of this writing so let’s move on with that in mind.
Starting Running Back: Le’Veon Bell
Bell became one of the top three all-purpose running backs in the NFL last year. His absence was glaring in the Steelers’ loss to Baltimore in the AFC Wild-Card Game. I expect to see him come back with a serious burr in his backside after missing the first three games.
Back-Up Running Back: DeAngelo Williams
The free agent addition of Williams couldn’t be further from the free agent acquisition of LeGarrette Blount a year ago. Williams has already endeared himself to Steelers’ fans with a strong and positive presence on social media and around the town.
Will that translate to success on the field however? Williams needs to stay healthy and provide not only positive plays in the running game, but he must also be solid in the passing game. Catching passes and picking up blitzes will be crucial.
Reserves: Josh Harris, Dri Archer
I’m listing Archer he because I don’t think the Steelers will list him as a receiver considering I think the top five wideouts are already set. With the suspension of Bell early, I think Archer is on the active roster. This won’t excite many people because as of right now he’s a total bust as a third-round draft pick but there’s always hope right?
As for Harris, I think he got a nice taste of actual action last year when Bell went down with the injury but here’s my question… If the Steelers were forced to go get Ben Tate for the playoffs last year then just how confident are they in Harris? Because of the Bell issue, he probably makes the opening day roster.
Fullback: Will Johnson
Roosevelt Nix will provide a nice bit of motivation for Johnson but I don’t see him being a real threat. Johnson is well-liked by Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley and they both love his versatility. He can play fullback but he can also play tight end or H-back when necessary.
Personally, I believe the offense is better when Johnson isn’t on the field, but I’m not the one calling the plays. Johnson returns as the full-time fullback.
Other Backs in Contention: Ross Scheuerman, Cameron Stingily
Both of these guys are rookies and face long odds of making the roster. Stingily did raise some eyebrows during OTAs because of his low-to-the-ground style. He isn’t what I’d call fast or elusive but he has an uncanny ability to pick up yards.
Scheuerman is about an inch shorter than Stingily at 6′ and is about 30 lbs less at 205. He’s from Lafayette (PA) and will need to perform well on offense and special teams as well to even be considered.
photo courtesy pennlive.com