Steeler nation will the Steelers running game answer the bell this season? Or maybe the better question is will Bell be the answer to the Steelers running game this season?
The Pittsburgh Steelers ran for an average of 96.1 yards per game as a team in 2012 ranking them 26th in the NFL. The Steelers as a team rushed for an average per carry of only 3.7 yards. Their leading rusher was Jonathan Dwyer running for 623 yards with a four yard average and two touchdowns for the season.
The Steelers have let underachieving running back Rashard Mendenhall go to the Arizona Cardinals via free agency and cut last years rookie Chris Rainey after off the field problems. One thing is for sure, the Steelers running game must improve dramatically after a dismal 2012 season.
Lets take a look at some of the main players that will make up the Steelers running game in 2013.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State: The Steelers drafted Bell in the 2nd round of this year’s draft. Bell rushed for 3,346 career yards and 33 touchdowns and caught 78 passes for 531 yards and a score. He rushed for 1,793 yards for the 2012 season, the second-highest single-season total in Michigan State history being named to the All-Big Ten first team. Bell gained 922 of his 1,793 rushing yards (51 percent) after contact, which ranked first among all NCAA running backs, and broke 16 tackles. Bell was voted Most Valuable Player (Governor’s Award) by his teammates. Bell accomplished all this running behind a suspect offensive line that was plagued by injuries most of 2012. Bell is a big powerful back with very quick feet and explosive for a runner his size. He has good hands and is very capable of being a three down feature running back. The Steelers will give him every opportunity to win the starting running back position as a rookie.
Jonathan Dwyer RB: Jonathan Dwyer led all Steelers running backs with 623 yards rushing with a 4.0 yard average and two touchdowns for the season. Dwyer showed flashes of being a capable starter in 2012 but his play was mostly inconsistent and he needs to be in better shape if he wants to move to the next level as a regular starter. He may have missed his opportunity to be the starter squandering his chance last season.
Isaac Redman RB: Isaac Redman rushed for 410 yards with a 3.7 average in 2012. A disappointing season to say the least. Redman was unable to seize the starting role, hampered by injuries to both ankles most of 2012. Redman has been a solid back up most of his career for the Steelers. His window of opportunity may be closing as far as being a starting running back. Redman is heading into his 5th season with the Steelers and has never cracked 500 yards rushing. Its now or never for Redman.
Baron Batch RB: Baron Batch showed flashes of being a solid running back early on but blew out his knee just before the start of the preseason in his rookie season in 2011. He came back in 2012 and was a key special teams player. He contributed very little in the actual running game getting only 25 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown. Batch may be on the bubble to make the team this season. His special teams play will help though.
LaRod Stephens-Howling RB: LaRod Stephens-Howling was picked up via free agency and previously played for the Arizona Cardinals for the last four seasons,rushing for a career total of 651 yards with a 3.6 average and 5 TD. LaRod Stephens-Howling is a very capable kick returner. He has returned 3 for touchdowns in his career with the Cardinals. LaRod Stephens-Howling is small at 5’7″, 185 pounds, but fast and may fill the role Chris Rainey had last season.
Will Johnson FB: Will Johnson was picked up as a free agent in 2012 out of West Virginia after a year out of football. The Steelers put him at fullback and not only did he make the team but contributed and started at the position during the regular season. Johnson is a good blocking fullback who has good athleticism. He never ran the ball much just 2 carries for 7 yards but had 15 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. Will Johnson should be even better in 2013.
So will the Steelers running game answer the bell in 2013? Will Bell be the answer for the Steelers running game this season? Have Dwyer and Redman squandered their chances to become starters?
It’s this writer’s opinion that Bell is the front runner and the Steelers won’t keep both Redman and Dwyer on the 53 man roster. Whats your opinion? We would love to hear it!
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