It’s weird seeing a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers looking so depleted at running back, but that was the situation at the position for them last season, which gives rookie Le’Veon Bell an excellent chance to become the team’s starting rusher in the 2013 NFL season.
For now, in the OTAs, Jonathan Dwyer has been treated like the number one guy, but it seems that it’s just a carry over from last season, and once the serious bits of training begin, it’s going to be a wide open competition.
Dwyer was the leading rusher for the Steelers last season with only 623 yards on 156 carries, scoring two touchdowns. He was followed by Isaac Redman, who did even worse when it came to yards per carry (3.7), running for 410 yards on 110 attempts, also scoring two touchdowns. Beyond that, there wasn’t really anything worth mentioning.
So the Steelers went out and got Le’Veon Bell out of Michigan State in the second round of the NFL draft, which usually means there are quite a few expectations tagging along with the 21 year-old who player three years for the Spartans, and had an amazing Junior season, running for 1740 yards on 382 attempts (4.7 per carry), earning a first-team All-Big Ten selection.
Bell has the potential to be a real workhorse for the Steelers, but a lot of it depends on how quickly he picks up the pass protection concept and scheme. Rookie running backs usually struggle with that early on due to the huge difference in pass rushing quality between college and the NFL. And still, after such a disappointing production from most of the guys Bell is competing with for the starting job, chances are his running might be enough to overcome his pass protection difficulties.
The Steelers did add LaRod Stephens-Howling who is also hoping to get more touches on the ball than he did during his four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, but there’s a good chance they’re mostly interested in his kick returning skills, while his chances at running back will be, once again, quite limited.