It's a curious phenomenon, this seemingly contradictory manner in which the NFL views running backs. The function they perform on a football field is valued for what it contributes toward winning games, but there seems to be a sentiment around the league that those capable of performing those functions are easy to find.
Whether running backs are easy to find or not, teams have come to understand it's best to have more than one.
The Steelers got themselves a nice No. 2 when they signed LeGarrette Blount to a two-year contract, a move that was all about adding reinforcements behind Le'Veon Bell.
Blount, 6-foot, 250 pounds, entered the league in 2010 as an undrafted rookie signed by the Tennessee Titans. The Titans waived him after his rookie training camp with the idea of putting him on the practice squad, but Blount was claimed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
His first NFL game action came in Week 3 of the 2010 season, in a 38-13 loss to the Steelers in which he rushed for 27 yards on six carries and scored a touchdown. Blount went on to rush for 1,007 yards and average 5.0 per carry in 2010. In 2011, he rushed for 781 yards, and after a 2012 season in which he had only 41 carries he was traded to New England for Jeff Demps plus a seventh-round draft choice.
With the Patriots, Blount was used primarily on first and second downs; he has shown himself to be capable in pass protection but his receiving skills can be described with this statistic: he has only 23 catches in his four NFL seasons.
Similarly, a description of Blount's running style can be found in his kickoff return statistics. Doing it for the first time in the NFL during the 2013 season with the Patriots, Blount averaged 29.1 yards per return with a long of 83 yards. He is a big guy who is quick to speed, and while he cannot be described as nifty, Blount has enough of a speed-power combination to make him dangerous to a defense.
Blount was not brought in to mentor Bell, nor is he necessarily a complementary player in terms of providing a change of pace. But Blount can share the workload at running back in the areas dictated by his individual talents, and that was something the Steelers didn't have, something the Steelers knew they would need in 2014.