The Pittsburgh Steelers did not wear pads on the first day of camp, but the running backs didn't need contact to look the part Sunday as the team opened camp at Saint Vincent College.
LeVeon Bell looked noticeably explosive. He says he's in the best shape of his life, and he's not lying.
Stutter steps. Change-of-pace runs. Straight-line speed. Watching Bell run is like one big tease for the Steelers, who can't play him until Week 4 because of his marijuana suspension. Bell's right knee injury, which kept him out of a playoff loss to Baltimore, still needs additional pre-practice stretching and isn't completely the same as the left one. But this is the best Bell has felt in a while, he said. If he had to play today, he could.
The story said Mike Tomlin is challenging free agent DeAngelo Williams by saying Bell will run with the first team, even though Williams needs enough work to be ready to start Week 1 against New England. But the piece went on to say that Williams felt he got plenty of work on what was just the first day. The big fantasy question is do you take Bell early in drafts knowing he going to miss games. Nabbing Williams later in drafts will be nice insurance is you do take Bell, and if this story is any indication, Bell is on his way to another very productive year. Bell is sixth on our RB list due to missing time, but his ADP is 1.3, so if you want him, you likely will need to take him very early.
You’ve heard about the 30-30 club. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell could redefine it. 30-20.
Less than 30 sacks for Roethlisberger, more than 20 carries a game for Bell.
These are modest goals that can vault the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense from a high-yardage attack to possibly the league’s most potent one.
Last season felt like a breakthrough for Pittsburgh’s offense, not only because of its 6,577 total yards -- second in the NFL behind the Saints -- but for Roethlisberger’s best sack rate since 2005. His 33 sacks in 16 games symbolized progress for a quarterback who’s been sacked nearly twice as much as Tony Romo. Romo has 242 sacks in nine seasons as starter, and Roethlisberger has 419 sacks in 11 years.
Less hits will equal a longer career for the 33-year-old Roethlisberger. And though Todd Haley’s offense protects quarterbacks with a quick passing game, the Steelers’ running game can make that transition easy for Roethlisberger, the story added. It doesn't hurt that Bell has emerged into one of the better do-it-all backs in the league and the addition of DeAngelo Williams as a backup should help the run game. This news could make Bell a bit more attractive to fantasy owners, even with a looming suspension to start the season.
Steelers RBs Josh Harris and Dri Archer are both going into their second NFL seasons. But since Archer arrived as a third-round pick and Harris as an in-camp free agent signing, the expectation level is dramatically different as are the roles each player will try to fill. For Harris, it’s to show himself capable of being a traditional No. 2 running back during the length of LeVeon Bell’s suspension. Carry the football, catch the occasional pass, step up and deliver in pass protection. Because the Steelers figure to utilize more than one running back in every regular season game, Harris will have to convince the coaches he can be trusted to play on Sept. 10 in New England. Archer’s chore is similar, but he’ll be competing for a less traditional role. It makes little sense to expect someone who’s 5-foot-8 and 173 pounds to run the ball between the tackles and take on blitzing linebackers, and so the Steelers are expected to look for ways to maximize his difference-making speed.
There's no doubt Bell will carry the load once he's fully back from his suspension, which currently stands at three games. DeAngelo Williams figures to be the RB1 while Bell sits, and should have RB2 value in that time. The team seems concerned with Williams' injury history, so if Harris can step up, he figures to get some work in an attempt to try and keep Williams healthy. Williams can be had in the late rounds while Bell is still an attractive, early-first-round option because of his running and pass-catching abilities. Anyone who drafts Bell may want to consider reaching a little earlier for Williams. His current ADP is the 12th round in 12-team leagues.
Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams is considered a bridge back until LeVeon Bell returns from suspension, but he shouldn't be alone on that bridge. The Steelers will need just as much from Dri Archer as from Williams, who signed a two-year, $4 million deal worth $1.13 million in signing bonus money but no incentives in 2015.
Williams is exactly what the money suggests he is -- a veteran who can get you 10-12 carries at a respectable clip and nothing more.
There's not much to love about the idea of starting Williams against the Patriots, 49ers and Rams during Bell's three-game suspension, but we believe that the team will try to get him closer to 15 carries per game. He should be healthy to start the season, and there are reasons why he only averaged 12.2 carries per game in his career -- he was splitting time with Jonathan Stewart and QB Cam Newton carried much of the rushing load for the Panthers. The biggest concern is Williams' 3.5 YPC last season, but he battled injuries the whole way. We think he'll provide low-end RB2 numbers while Bell is sidelined, provided he's healthy.
The Steelers will begin the 2015 season without their top running back. The NFL has suspended RB LeVeon Bell for three games without pay for violating its substance-abuse policy, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
Bell has appealed the ruling, ESPN reported. The tailback has also been docked a fourth game check by the league, per Schefter.
If the suspension holds, Bell can take part in preseason games and training camp before serving his ban away from the club.
Bell’s suspension stems from a DUI charge last summer. He was sentenced to probation, and the charge, along with a marijuana possession count, can be removed from his record if he completes 15 months of service. His former Steelers teammate, LeGarrette Blount, has garnered a one-game suspension for the incident.
Obviously losing Bell for any stretch is a major blow to the Steelers offense. Bell emerged as one of the game’s star dual threats at the position in 2014, racking up more than 2,000 rushing-receiving yards. Ex-Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams figures to have a bigger role with Bell out of the Pittsburgh lineup to begin next season. This could drop Bell a few slots come draft time, but given his workload and last year's success, he should still be a very desirable draft-day selection.
“The thing you’ve got to be careful about in this league is you can’t rely on one player at one position,’’ Rivera said during the NFC coaches breakfast. “Running back has definitely been proven that you’ve got to have a good two-back tandem.
“And that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for that complement to Jonathan.’’
Stewart averaged 18.3 carries per game in the final seven games of the season (averaging 97.0 rushing yards and 0.29 TD per game). Those are #9 RB numbers in PPR formats, so even if Stewart's carries are limited to 16-17 per game (15 carries plus 1-2 receptions), he should still provide solid RB2 production.
Update: The deal is for $4 million over two years, but is effectively $2 million for one year, per Jason La Canfora.
LeVeon Bell is facing a 2-4 game suspension and the Williams signing makes Bell more appealing as a 1.01 or 1.02 pick since he can provide starter-caliber numbers while Bell is sidelined. Over the past two seasons, Williams has averaged 12.4 PPR fantasy points in the eight games where he's touched the ball at least 15 times. That equates to high-end RB2 numbers, so he should be able to carry the load while Bell is suspended.
Williams told WBTV in an exclusive interview Monday that he was cut by the Panthers last week during a meeting with coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman.
"We sat down, and he told me, 'The fact of the matter is we're going to have to release you,'" Williams told the station. "I said, you know, 'Why?' and he said, 'Because we don't run the ball enough. Just like you said back before the season started, we don't run the ball enough to keep you and [Jonathan Stewart] both, so we're going to release you.'"
Carolina will save $2 million in salary-cap space by designating Williams as a post-June 1 cut. Williams has one year left on his deal and is scheduled to count $6.3 million against the 2015 salary cap.
Jonathan Stewart was tremendous down the stretch, averaging 105 total yards (97.0 rushing) in the final seven games, including two playoff games. He averaged 5.30 YPC in that span, including 5.13 YPC versus Arizona and 5.38 YPC against Seattle in the playoffs. Over the final five games of the regular season, he was the #10 fantasy running back. He turns 28 in March, so there is definitely some tread left on his tires. Even though he has missed 20 percent of his team's games due to injury throughout the career, he'll be a high-upside pick with Williams out of the way.
GM Dave Gettleman said he wanted to sit down with DeAngelo Williams before saying anything publicly about the status of the franchise’s all-time rushing leader. Last year, Gettleman was widely criticized for his noncommittal comments about Steve Smith’s future with the team before talking to the Panthers’ popular, all-time receiving leader.
“I need to talk to DeAngelo, I really do. He’s a pro’s pro, and he had a tough season,” Gettleman said. “The obvious loss of his mom was very, very difficult. He only played six (regular season) games this year, and it was tough for him. Before I say anything, just know he’s a pro’s pro. And the way he finished the season, he finished it like a man.”
Williams, who turns 32 in April, finished with career lows in every major rushing category after battling injuries most of the season. When Williams returned from a broken hand in December, he was reduced to part-time work behind Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whittaker.
Jonathan Stewart was tremendous down the stretch, averaging 105 total yards (97.0 rushing) in the final seven games, including two playoff games. He averaged 5.30 YPC in that span, including 5.13 YPC versus Arizona and 5.38 YPC against Seattle in the playoffs. Over the final five games of the regular season, he was the #10 fantasy running back. He turns 28 in March, so there is definitely some tread left on his tires. Even though he has missed 20 percent of his team's games throughout the career, he'll be a high-upside pick if Williams is let go.
Friday, January 2, 2015, 5:04pm
Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (hand, probable) took full practice reps all week and is probable for Week 18. Williams is going to play, but Jonathan Stewart is expected to continue to serve as the lead back against Arizona. He has averaged 19.6 touches since Week 13.
Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart returned to practice Wednesday and having the day off on Tuesday, and he’s expected to start and get the majority of carries when the Panthers face the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday in the wild-card playoff game.
There’s been discussion on how the Panthers would split the carries between the red-hot Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, who’s recovering from a broken bone in his hand. Stewart didn’t seem concerned about that Wednesday.
“Whatever the offensive coordinator (decides) and whatever the plan is for the game, that’s how we run things,” Stewart said. “You just do your part and just worry about that.”
Stewart was the #10 fantasy running back from Week 13 to Week 17, and averaged 5.3 yards per carry in that span. Williams has been out for a while and averaged just 3.5 YPC on 62 carries this season.
Panthers HC Ron Rivera was coy about the running back rotation before the Week 17 win at Atlanta, as well. DeAngelo Williams was listed as probable, but was held out for the fourth straight game with a broken bone in his right hand.
Jonathan Stewart has rushed for 486 yards over the past five games, beginning with the Nov. 30 loss at Minnesota when Williams was hurt. Rivera said he didn't want Williams to aggravate the injury against the Falcons last week.
"I decided we're in a good spot right now," Rivera said. "We've got guys that are 100 percent healthy, and why expose an injury that's something as simple as a nick that could turn into something worse?"
Williams played in only six regular-season games, while a healthy Stewart had his best season since 2009. But Rivera said he's not worried about disrupting the offensive chemistry by working Williams back in the rotation. "No, he's part of our chemistry," Rivera said, according to the story. But Stewart has excelled as the lead back without Williams around, so it remains to be seen if Rivera reverts back to both RBs. It's not a friendly matchup against the Cards, which could tempt Rivera to change things up.
Friday, December 26, 2014, 6:53pm
Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (hand, probable) took full practice reps all week and is probable for Week 17. Williams is on track to play but the team is apparently concerned about his ability to pass protect. Jonathan Stewart’s RB1-type workload seems safe.
Friday, December 19, 2014, 6:02pm
Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (hand, questionable) took limited practice reps all week and is questionable for Week 16. Williams will be used in an emergency-only capacity. Jonathan Stewart is averaging 19.0 touches in the last three games and is averaging 5.8 YPC in that span. He’s a solid fantasy RB2.
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