Last season Le'Veon Bell emerged as the running back the Steelers had hoped he would be when he was selected in the second round in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Bell was voted Steelers MVP, set Steelers single season records, and carried the load for the ground game. Until the postseason that was, when a knee injury sidelined him and the ground game struggled in the Steelers AFC Wild Card game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Enter DeAngelo Williams this offseason, a proven starter in his nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers who can step in and start when needed, or give Bell a needed breather.
"DeAngelo is an accomplished running back in the league," said offensive coordinator Todd Haley. "That is as a pass catcher also. You might not feature him, but I think he is going to be where he needs to be and he will make plays afterwards.
"This week you've seen DeAngelo really get more comfortable and he's practicing a little faster. I told him that today. It's a lot to learn for a guy that's been in just one spot, and now he is trying to learn a whole new language, so to speak. And he's done a good job studying it. Definitely this week you've really seen him get a little more comfortable and he is practicing faster."
The Steelers also have Dri Archer and Josh Harris back at running back and both second year players have been working this offseason in hopes of getting playing time as well. Archer had 10 carries for 40 yards last year, while Harris had nine carries for 16 yards after being activated off the practice squad on Nov. 18.
"You are getting a lot of guys at the position ready to compete, because you are evaluating and trying to figure out who and what you have, and who gives you the best chance to win," said Haley. "Getting a seasoned veteran like DeAngelo in here is a good thing. He's played a lot of snaps and a lot of football. You can see it in how he carries himself. He is showing leadership to some of the younger guys. But at the same time I like our young guys that are developing.
"What I always like to talk about with them is that they are much more comfortable than where they were a year ago. They know the lay of the land. They know how we practice. They have so much more experience under their belt, even though they maybe didn't play a ton of snaps. Just the ability to get ready to compete and practice in training camp, they are way ahead of the game. It shows. Both guys look much more comfortable and understand what and how they are supposed to do it."