PITTSBURGH — DeAngelo Williams isn’t obsessed with his numbers. The Pittsburgh Steelers running back isn’t really keeping track of them anyway, though if he’s being honest he’s getting a little tired of his age coming up in nearly every conversation.
Yes, Williams is aware he’s 33, a time when backs are either retired or rapidly heading in that direction one carry at a time. And yet there Williams was, churning out a career-high 32 carries for 94 yards and adding four receptions for another 38 and a touchdown in a 24-16 win over the Bengals on Sunday.
“Somebody said in the locker room, ‘You’re either old or you are good, which one are you?'” Williams said. “And I was like, ‘I don’t know.'”
By all accounts, Williams seems to be both.
While the yards didn’t come as easily in the rain at Heinz Field as they did last Monday in a romp over Washington, it hardly mattered. Williams found enough room to keep the chains moving, the Cincinnati offense off the field, and the Steelers unbeaten. Who cares if his yards per carry (a modest 2.9) won’t exactly have fantasy football owners rubbing their hands with glee?
Last Williams checked, he dealt in reality. And the reality is Williams is doing more than serving as a caretaker while Le’Veon Bell serves his three-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He is thriving.
“I’ll take a 3.0 (average) in a win any day as opposed to a 7.0 in a loss,” Williams said.
Williams also went over 10,000 yards from scrimmage on his career, the 13th active player to reach that plateau. Pardon him, however, if he doesn’t get too worked up over it.
“It’s yards man,” he said. “I am hunting one thing and one thing only, and it’s a Super Bowl. The 10,000 yards up until this point haven’t translated into a Super Bowl, so it means nothing to me.”
Maybe, but the 132 combined yards he piled up against Cincinnati meant plenty to the Steelers. It kept Pittsburgh afloat on a day quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t his normally crisp self. It also served notice that while the years next to Williams’ name are climbing, the miles still remain relatively low.
Williams is well aware one of the reasons he’s still around is thanks to his nine seasons in Carolina, where he split carries with teammates, namely Jonathan Stewart. It worked for the Panthers. There’s every reason to think it may work for the Steelers when Bell returns in Week 4. Just don’t expect Williams to start clamoring for it.
Sure Williams believes he’s good at his job. It’s just that Bell is probably better.
“The thing I wanted to do when I got here, is when Bell went off the field, not to take any pressure off the defense,” Williams said. “But Bell is so dynamic when he plays the game I don’t want him to come off the field.”
They do provide a study in contrast. While Bell will patiently wait for the blocks ahead of him to develop — even occasionally placing one of his hands on the back of a lineman — Williams takes a more direct approach. Whenever he met with resistance on Sunday, he lowered his head or his shoulders (or both) and tried to make room on his own.
He’s also made an impact in the passing game. His touchdown grab on Sunday was his first since 2013, but also his 10th reception of the season. In 18 games with the Steelers Williams already has 50 catches. That’s nearly as many as he had from 2011-14 combined.
Williams will get one more chance next week in Philadelphia before Bell’s familiar No. 26 is cleared to return. And Williams will cede the spot atop the depth chart to one of the league’s most versatile players. He’ll still be plenty ready, however, when called on. Just like always.