Over the last few seasons, the Steelers offense has evolved into one that features Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown, and the big play down field. While those two can certainly put up points in a hurry, Ben has the luxury of switching things up and handing it off to the best running back in the game, LeVeon Bell, who does things that no other running back in the NFL can do. The talent at the running back position doesn’t end with Bell however, as both DeAngelo Williams and Fitgerald Toussaint have produced some big plays for the Steelers as well. Recently the Steelers have also re-added Karlos Williams to the practice squad following the completion of his 10 game suspension. Karlos, the younger brother of inside line linebacker Vince Williams, adds an intriguing blend of size and speed similar to that of Bam Morris in the mid 90’s.
When the Steelers selected Michigan State running back LeVeon Bell in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft, they knew they were getting themselves an impressive talent at the position, but their is no way they could’ve envisioned the player he has worked so hard to become. During his four seasons, Bell has put up some historic numbers on his way to becoming the best running back on the planet, and has yet to reach his full potential. During his first four years, Bell is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, has 6,050 total yards from scrimmage and has scored 31 total touchdowns, all while missing a total of 17 games. The Steelers have no intention of letting Bell, an unrestricted free agent, hit the open market and will hit him with the franchise player tag, buying them time to work out a long term deal with their once in a generation talent.
Over the last two seasons, DeAngelo Williams has proven to be the best backup running back in the NFL, and one of the top free agent signings in Steelers history. With his no non-sense running style, and versatility, William’s play has been superb. He has averaged 4.2 yards per carry and has scored 17 touchdowns, while filling in when LeVeon Bell has been unavailable. At 34 years old, the Steelers have to decide whether or not to bring him back, but it’s important to note that while he may be up there in age for a running back, Williams doesn’t have normal wear and tear of a full time feature back. The value that he brings is certainly worth having around for at least one more season.
The former University of Michigan running back did a nice job for the Steelers during their playoff run in 2015, but has seen little action since. Used mostly on special teams and as a kick returner in 2016, Toussaint added little to the offense this season, picking up 58 yards on just 14 carries. The Steelers say they like Toussant, but be that as it may, a strong showing in camp by Karlos Williams, or a potential draft pick, will have Fitzgerald Toussaint looking for a job elsewhere next season.
At 6’1″/230 lbs, Karlos Williams is a one-cut downhill runner with an intriguing blend of power and speed that could be a nice compliment to LeVeon Bell. Perhaps the Steelers resigning him to the practice squad, after completing a 10 game suspension that followed his initial signing, is a good indication of what they see in him. After a strong showing during his rookie year in Buffalo (7 touchdowns, 517 yards, with a 5.6 yard per carry average), there is no doubt that Williams can perform at this level. The only thing that will hold him back are his personal issues, which the Steelers are hoping that the presense of his brother Vince will help him. Williams has an excellent opportunity to revive his career with the Steelers, especially if they choose not to bring back DeAngelo Williams, it’s up to him to make the most of it.
Karlos Williams 2015 NFL COMBINE STATS:
- 40 YARD DASH: 4.48 SEC
- BENCH PRESS: 16 REPS
- VERTICAL JUMP: 33.5 INCH
- BROAD JUMP: 117.0 INCH
- 3 CONE DRILL: 7.16 SEC
- 20 YARD SHUTTLE: 4.46 SEC
A lot could change at this position for the Steelers if they were to decide not to bring DeAngelo Williams back. Maybe that was their thoughts when they brought Karlos Williams back. Karlos has the talent and tools to be a reliable number two back, much moreso than Fitzgerald Toussaint, but how it all shakes out remains to be seen. An early prediction would be that the Steelers top three running backs heading into next season will be LeVeon Bell, DeAngelo Williams, and Karlos Williams.