Pittsburgh Steelers backup running back, DeAngelo Williams, isn’t getting any younger. At age 33, he’s likely nearing the end of his professional football career. Since joining the Steelers in 2015, Williams has carried the ball 298 times for 1,250 yards and 15 touchdowns. Williams gained 1,062 yards in his last two seasons with the Carolina Panthers and only scored three touchdowns. Williams filled in nicely for star running back Le’Veon Bell during his suspension last season, but did he do enough to secure a spot on the Steelers roster?
Making the Case For and Against DeAngelo Williams
Williams has been a solid backup to Bell over the past two seasons, especially early in the season last year when Williams looked like his younger self.
Williams is a hardened veteran with good pass-blocking skills and good receiving ability as well. Running backs that can carry the ball, catch the ball and pass-block are rare in the NFL these days. Williams and Bell have a close relationship and even take a calm walk together before each game. Williams can carry a heavy workload like he did when Bell was absent due to injury or suspension, but perhaps even more importantly, he’s also capable of staying on the sideline and remaining humble. Egos have been the downfall of many players over the years, especially those nearing the end of their careers, so it’s nice to see that Williams has no problem taking a back seat to Bell.
Age and Cost
As earlier mentioned, Williams is getting old. At age 33, some might say he’s not getting old, he’s already there. With experience comes wear and tear, and Williams has become more and more injury prone over the years. Williams missed seven games due to injury last year, forcing Bell to carry a much heavier workload than expected. Williams signed a two-year deal with the Steelers in 2015 worth $4 million. The argument could be made that $4 million over two years isn’t that much money for a dependable backup, but is it too much when the backup doesn’t play that much? Williams missed nearly half of the season due to injury last year, but when he was healthy and Bell was playing, Williams hardly saw any playing time.
After Williams, the Steelers have Fitzgerald Touissant. Touissant saw some limited action last year, carrying the ball 14 times for 58 yards. Touissant is set to make $690,000 in 2017 before becoming a restricted free agent in 2018. The Steelers could decide to re-sign Williams to another two-year deal, so that he and Touissant’s contracts would both be up at the same time. The Steelers should consider drafting a running back in this year’s draft. With Williams getting to the end of his career and Touissant not really performing all that much, it’s important to find a solid backup to Bell in the unfortunate case of injury.
Finding a dependable backup that isn’t upset with being a backup in the NFL is rare, especially at the running back and wide receiver positions. Williams is great for giving Bell his rarely needed breaks because he’s a good change of pace with his smaller size and quicker acceleration through the hole. Although he requires a decent backup himself because of injury issues, if Williams isn’t asking for more money than he received in his last contract, he’s worth keeping. Expect the Steelers to re-sign Williams.