The Pittsburgh Steelers appeared intent to add a veteran running back to the roster to supplement second-year back Le’Veon Bell at some point this offseason, and that point came earlier today when they signed LeGarrette Blount to a two-year contract.
It’s no secret that the Steelers value a veteran presence in their locker room, which is why when they lost out on Jerricho Cotchery among the wide receivers, they added Lance Moore to the equation.
After failing to re-sign Jonathan Dwyer, their own veteran, and subsequent failures to sign James Starks and Maurice Jones-Drew, Blount became perhaps the most attractive option left on the market for the role.
In Blount, the Steelers are getting a back who’s seen a lot in the league in four short years and has been asked to fulfill a variety of roles.
As a rookie, he was thrust into the spotlight with the Tampa Bay Buccanneers, rushing for over 1000 yards and averaging 5 yards per carry.
In his second year, Tampa Bay’s offense inexplicably turned more toward Josh Freeman and the passing game, and saw Blount’s playing time and production decrease, despite becoming a full-time starter.
The Buccaneers drafted running back Doug Martin in the first round in 2012, signaling the beginning of the end for Blount in Tampa Bay. He was forced to the bench carried the ball just 41 times as the organization grew tired of him.
He revitalized his career last season with the New England Patriots, emerging from a crowded backfield thanks to injury and benching to become the team’s featured runner down the stretch. Including the postseason, he rushed for 942 yards averaging over 5 yards per carry and scored 11 touchdowns on just 182 carries.
Blount has been the featured runner, the backup, and part of platoon in just four short years in the league.
Overall, he has adjusted to each role well as he has continued to mature on and off the field, which should serve him well as his role in Pittsburgh becomes defined through the offseason and into the regular season.
Because I don’t believe that Blount’s role is already clearly defined. Given the money and years, it would seem to suggest that he wasn’t brought in just to sit on the bench until Bell comes up lame with an injury.
The coaching staff needs to decide how much they want to put on the shoulders of their young 22-year-old tailback. They already know that they have a back in Blount that can shoulder a lot of the load.
If they choose to feed Blount the ball a statistically significant amount of the time, it could save Bell from some wear and tear a year after he had close to 300 touches in just 13 games.
Last year, Felix Jones touched the ball only 41 times with Bell healthy. Dwyer had just 47 touches. Will the Steelers ask Blount to absorb that much of the work, or potentially more?