The contract negotiations between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Le’Veon Bell have noticeably eroded, perhaps to the point of no return. Despite a desire by both parties to reach a long term deal this off-season, it isn’t likely to happen. Bell, the most versatile weapon in Randy Fichtner‘s arsenal, could very well be playing his final season in Pittsburgh. The Steelers applied the exclusive rights franchise tag to Bell for a second straight year, committing $14 million to him. They won’t apply the tag to Bell for a third straight season, especially at a cost of roughly $22 million. So what can they do to prepare for life without Bell? If available, the Steelers could draft Derrius Guice out of LSU and add him to the Steelers offense.
Derrius Guice Could Power the Pittsburgh Steelers Offense
The Steelers most immediate needs are at inside linebacker and safety. They’ll likely select a player from one of those positions at pick number 28, which makes sense. Does it make sense to draft a running back with their first pick since their backups get minimal carries? It would if that running back is Guice, and here’s why. Having a clear-cut replacement for Bell a year ahead of time serves two purposes. First, the Steelers would have the best trio of running backs in football. Secondly, Guice would have a year to get comfortable in the offense before taking over for Bell.
Despite the fact that backup running backs get minimal carries, Guice would have a year to develop his receiving skills. As a pure runner, Guice is arguably the best in the 2018 draft class. He’s an explosive, big back who can go the distance every time he touches the ball. He’s also flashed the ability to catch the ball, something the Steelers offense has grown fond of with Bell. Taking Guice in the first round gives the Steelers four full years of stability at the position, following his “redshirt” season.
What Guice Can Offer the Steelers Offense
Guice played 36 games at LSU and started 17 of them. He had 471 carries during his career and averaged six and a half yards per carry. Guice rushed for 29 touchdowns during his three seasons in Baton Rouge, scoring 26 of them in his last two. He was overshadowed by Leonard Fournette during his first two seasons but still managed to make a name for himself. In 2016, Guice stepped in for the injured Fournette, rushing for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns on 183 carries. His breakout season included two record-breaking November performances. Guice rushed for 285 yards against Texas A&M on November 12. Two weeks later, he ripped off 252 yards against Arkansas.
Guice is the only player in SEC history with three games of 250+ yards rushing. He’s the only player in conference history to reach that mark against two SEC opponents in the same season. His 285-yard day against Texas A&M is a school record. Guice broke the school mark of 284 yards set by Fournette two weeks earlier. He runs with excellent balance and has an extremely physical running style. He describes his style as “running angry”. Guice ran the 40-yard dash at the Combine in just under four and a half seconds, and hit 31.5 inches on his vertical. Perhaps this is the most telling stat about Guice’s LSU career. Guice averaged over 10 yards per carry in nine of his 36 games. He is the type of runner the Pittsburgh Steelers offense traditionally showcases.
Last Word on Derrius Guice
The Pittsburgh Steelers have several well-publicized needs heading into the 2018 NFL Draft. They addressed two of those needs in free agency when they signed linebacker Jon Bostic and safeties Morgan Burnett and Nat Berhe. Those signings give the Steelers flexibility in the draft and keep them from having to reach on critical picks. It opens the door to the possibility of selecting Guice with their first pick if he’s available. There is no doubt that he would look great in a Steelers uniform.
Guice is the type of running back we’re used to seeing in the Steelers offense. He is tough, physical, and has home run speed. Guice is quick to hit the hole and is rarely taken down by one defender. He has shown he has the ability to catch the ball away from his body, which is what we’ve really come to appreciate with Bell. Some say the Steelers don’t have a need to draft Guice at this time, and that it would be a wasted pick. Are they some of the same people who wished the Steelers would have drafted Dan Marino when there wasn’t a need for him in 1983?