Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was certainly enthusiastic about the team’s ability to bring in running back LeGarrette Blount as a free agent during this offseason to complement their young frontrunner, Le’Veon Bell.
Admittedly, he probably wasn’t anticipating complementary possession charges on the eve of the Steelers’ third preseason game. But the coach took out some of his frustrations with Blount on the field, giving both backs playing time well into the fourth quarter of the game.
Blount could not have responded much better, even if he didn’t break off any big runs on his seven carries. He even returned a kick to the 25-yard line and caught a few passes. But the highlight of his performance was obviously as a ball carrier.
Early in the game, Blount came in to spell Bell for one play after the latter took a big hit as a defenseless receiver. He got the call and gained five yards on the play. With a linebacker closing in on the left side of the formation, Blount cut back to the right side and found a small crease behind Marcus Gilbert’s backside—unfortunate word choice, but an accurate account.
Blount came in as the back with the Steelers’ second series. On first down, he couldn’t pick up on a blitz the offensive line failed to account for quickly enough, which resulted in an incomplete pass. On the second play, he once again found Gilbert’s backside, making the first defender miss and driving through a mass of defenders for an extra yard and a half for five in total.
While he only gained three yards on this carry, it highlights the strength that he possesses as a runner. His ability to drive forward through a pile will be advantageous for the Steelers this season as he continues to display an improved aptitude for lowering his pad level in such situations.
Midway through the second quarter, with the Steelers backed up near their own goal line, Blount got the call on consecutive plays for nine yards. He simply plowed ahead through a hole on first down for six yards, but on second down, he once again cut back a run to the left side to run off right tackle with two players pulling to the left. He was able to fight his way for three yards making his own running lane when the one that was supposed to be there for him never appeared.
Later on in the drive, Blount followed Heath Miller’s lead, again off right tackle, finding a bit of daylight as he bounced off defenders for seven yards. The play was called back because of a hold by Ramon Foster that likely would not have impacted the play.