The Steelers loaded up their backfield on Friday in day two of the NFL draft, first coming to terms with free agent RB LaRod Stephens-Howling from Arizona, and then snagging Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell with their second round pick.
“Without getting into the specifics, as the process went on it was pretty clear this was the guy we would be most excited about being available when it came to our pick,” said offensive coordinator Todd Haley. “In the end, he was (our top-rated running back). Without getting into specifics, there are a lot of different factors that go into that. He is a young guy who is big. With no disrespect, I drew some Eddie George physical comparisons to him because Le’Veon is taller than what you would normally see. He’s a good athlete. We love the fact that he catches the ball really well, and he still has that big back presence.”
With the Spartans in 2012 as a junior, Bell ran for 1,793 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s known as a power back and also has experience in the Wildcat when Michigan State got into the red zone.
“I’m a balanced runner,” said Bell. “I’m a bigger guy. I’m 230 pounds. I can go in there and get the tough yardage and even though a lot of people look at me and think, ‘He’s just a short yardage back,’ I don’t look at myself like that. I can get to the outside. I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I can pass protect. I can play special teams. There’s a lot of things that I can do to bring value to the Steelers, and that’s what I plan on doing.”
The club also hoped they found the replacement for Mike Wallace, picking up Oregon State WR Markus Wheaton.
“He is a highly productive receiver out of Oregon State, a four-year guy who had great production as a receiver, and he also handled the football as a runner a bunch, which we like from a versatility standpoint,” Haley said.
“He’s a good solid football player who brings speed to the team. He’s a fast guy, make no mistake about it, a guy who can stretch the field.”
Wheaton had 30 straight starts with Oregon State, and caught a school-record 227 passes, for 2,994 yards and 16 scores. He added 631 yards rushing on 83 carries (7.6 average), with more five scores.
“To be honest, I envision myself anywhere,” said Wheaton. “I played a lot of outside in college. Obviously, it’s not the same as the NFL, but I feel I can produce outside. If I do need to play inside, I feel I can do both. I like being all over the place. The defense can’t really plan for you when they don’t know where you’re going to be. So I like being all over the place.”