LeGarrette Blount Still Learning How To Be A ‘Big Back’

New Pittsburgh Steelers running back LeGarrette Blount is a big back. There’s no disguising that fact behind his 6’, 250-pound frame. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he runs like a big back, or that he’s always known how.

Make no mistake: Blount thrives on making contact and using his physical running style to pile up yardage through defenders—but he does it best in space. Since coming into the league, he averages the third-highest yards after contact per carry in that timeframe (as a rookie, he forced a league-best 50 missed tackles and averaged 3.68 yards after contact per carry).

But while he has excelled in gathering yards after contact, which would seem to be the hallmark of the ‘big back’, Blount has in many ways defied the stereotype, on both the positive and negative ends of the spectrum.

A product of the Oregon Ducks offense, Blount cut his teeth as a zone runner in college, going sideline-to-sideline and cutting upfield once daylight breaks, which is enabled by his sub-4.6 speed and above average agility for his frame.

This has caused him problems in the NFL when pigeonholed in short-yardage and goal line situations, in which he hasn’t always taken advantage of his natural physique to plow ahead for the first down or the score.

The Oregon playbook didn’t have a Power O page, or plays designed for the I-formation. “You don’t take the ball and go downhill at Oregon“, Blount said. “You take the ball and go lateral. Then, when you see an opening, that’s when you get vertical”.

He simply wasn’t asked to lower his shoulders and pound ahead when all that’s needed is one or two yards. It’s been a process throughout his entire professional career to adjust to and get comfortable with that running style.

As recently as this past December, during his most significant time while with the New England Patriots, head coach Bill Belichick advised him to change his running style to better take advantage of his natural frame.

Blount grew up playing upright, which makes him an easier target. Belichick taught him to lower his pad level and to be more decisive, and it has been a process to adapt to that position to the point that it feels natural, an issue only alleviated through repetition.

“You just got to do it a lot more than a lot of guys who are shorter than you”, he said. “You just got to keep doing it more often so it becomes a habit”.

As I wrote yesterday, this change helped Blount improve his success in short-yardage situations last season, most of which came in December. He toted the ball six times on goal-to-go situations last season, and he scored on four of them.

All of them, however, came on first down, and the two on which he failed came from one yard out. Yet three of his four touchdowns came from at least five yards out.

Nevertheless, it would appear that he still has room to grow when it comes to getting the tough yards in short-yardage and goal line situations, which are typically the realm of the ‘big back’, and if anything, that should be something to be excited about.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • dgh57

    I think in time he’ll adapt to having success in short yardage situation as at least he’s gotten somewhat of a head start under the Patriots system. Coaches will also work with him in all the off season programs that should also help him out to where he’ll be good to go by the start of the season.

  • Caesar

    Such an uninspiring signing to me.

  • Soliciting Steelers

    I agree! He runs upright too often, can’t pass block, and below avg hands. Yay, he can return kicks! No thx, get me a speed WR or CB to do that plz. If anyone has a hard time remembering Najeh Davenport, Blount will bring back some mediocre memories…

  • Smashmouth

    Not trying to be rude or Bash other posters but exactly who did we have or who did we loose that is proven to be better than than Blount ? imo he will do better in this system i personally am glad redmond and dwyer are gone. Give me a little better with a chance of getting even better is preferable to stale and stagnant every time now i’ll get off my soapbox

  • dkoy85

    Agreed… but you’re too nice 😀

  • Smashmouth

    it’s early

  • Douglas Andrews

    I see Blount as an upgrade from both Dwyer whom i really liked, F Jones and Redman. Also gives us a nice upgrade from Jones as a kick returner. Hard to not like the signing.

  • steelster

    Have you ever seen blount play, the guy can run. He has a career average of 4.7 yards per carry. Try and go out and find another backup running back with that high of average. We have bell for a receiver and blount is a average blocker. Please name another backup rb that is currently available that is better than blount.

  • Caesar

    I have seen him play. That is my basis for judgment. He is overrated as a runner, and can’t do much else.

    Andre Brown and Michael Bush are just as good running, but better blockers and receivers.

  • Nathaniel Sullivan

    But I think your missing the point, Andre Brown and Micheal Bush is starting material, he said, “Try and go out and find another backup running back”. We dont need someone to go out there every down and come out the backfield or catch. We got him for the short downs and plow for either a 1st or touchdown.

  • Caesar

    No one left is starting material. Bush hasn’t been a starter his whole career and Brown’s chance to start this year is past. And the point of this article is that Blount is not actually that good at doing what you just said we need him for.

  • Caesar

    Why does it have to be a “proven” guy? Blount to me is a lateral move from Dwyer at best. Would prefer to just take a chance on a rookie if that is the only choice, but I think there are other vets out there who can do more than Blount. For a backup I want someone well-rounded or someone who excels at something. He fits neither category.

  • Ike Evans

    I see ur point with the rookie thing but I still like the blount move…but I would have been good with drafting a rookie

  • Ike Evans

    He pass blocked for Brady pretty well last year in the backfield and he has good enough hands to catch a kick off or a punt….so logically he should have good enough hands to catch a pass

  • dennisdoubleday

    We are all entitled to opinions–mine is that it is laughable that Blount is a lateral move from Dwyer. If the point is to gain yards, he has done that better than Dwyer at every point in their respective careers. That is why he commanded a LOT more money.

  • Caesar

    In today’s NFL I would hardly call about 700K a year more “a LOT” more. And he hasn’t really gained yards better than Dwyer at every point in their careers. Dwyer 4.2 per carry with the Steelers godawful O-lines, Blount 4.7 aided by a 5.0 last year playing in NE. Blount also fumbles more, and Dwyer has more career receptions with one fewer season. And Dwyer is three years younger. Want to disagree with it being a lateral move, fine, I am can see arguments for that, but I think it is hardly a laughable side to take.

  • Matthew Marczi

    That is not the point of the article at all. The point is that as good as a ball carrier as he may be now, he still can do a better job of harnessing his natural physical assets to improve in situational football.

  • Matt Manzo

    I love Blount, have since college. Only thing that bothers me is how much does he want to be a Steeler?
    Is he of the state of mind that says I’ll prove to the league I’m good and when my contracts up I’ll take big money somewhere else?
    Or will he be committed to the team, find a role for himself, work hard and be proud of that? Hopefully getting another contract in Pitt and make enough money to be happy and win 2 Super Bowls!

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well, from what I understand Mike Tomlin was instrumental in recruiting him, so that gives me the impression that he wants to play for Tomlin. And honestly he’s going to be 29 after his contract is up here. I know he doesn’t have a ton of tread on his tires, but we don’t know where he’ll be physically two years from now, as RBs tend to have a shorter shelf-life.

  • Matt Manzo

    Yeah, I wasn’t thinking about age. I forgot he was 27. Seems younger to me!
    I guess 2 hardworking years is good. I just hoped for a better career for him.
    One of my favorite things about the NFL is when an average player carves out a niche for himself and makes a career out of it. They usually play longer and make just as much as the “stars” over the long run.
    But you’re right, not so much for a RB.
    Has there ever been a journey man running back?

  • Caesar

    I get that, I was responding to some of these other comments. I get the argument, and it’s well presented. I’m not as optimistic, but I would not mind being on the wrong side of the final answer.

  • dennisdoubleday

    1 year, $790K, $65K guaranteed is in a different ballpark than 2 years, $3.85M with $950K guaranteed.

    A half a yard average difference is huge when comparing RBs. And Blount has a much bigger sample size, nearly 3 times as many carries. I will grant you that I am worried about Blount’s fumbles, though. 1 every 50 carries is an unacceptable rate.

  • hp b

    Tomlin and Raheem Morris are good friends.
    Tomlin no doubt got a lot of input from Morris as to ups and downs about Blount.
    Blount looks to be a no brainer, a big strong man who just looks like a Steeler running back. Pretty young too.
    Bell and Blount and the young OL are gonna pound some folks pretty good, I have to believe.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Good point about Morris. I’d forgotten about Tomlin’s relationship with him.