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Blount’s success further exposes Steelers’ lack of RB depth

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Denver Broncos
After watching LeGarrette Blount play such a vital role in the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl run over the past month, I tried to get mad about it. I really did. It would have been fun to add to the anti-Blount vitriol being spewed by Steeler Nation after his ill-fated partial season wearing black and gold. But as I watched his bruising running style and how it helped the Pats stack playoff win after playoff win on their way to a championship, all I could think is “We sure could have used him against the Ravens.”

Off-the-field and character issues aside, Blount served an important purpose as Le’Veon Bell’s backup. He was a change-of-pace guy – and maybe more importantly – a proven, physical runner that harkened back to a bygone era of Steelers football. Blount’s presence in the backfield would have forced the Ravens to commit more players to stopping the run, which in turn would have opened things up for the passing game.

At this point, some of you may be recalling the fact that Ben Roethlisberger threw for 334 yards in the game, but that number is deceiving. Much of that yardage was accumulated after the Steelers were behind and would have been throwing the ball anyway. Blount could have turned the tide early in the game by grinding out yards that moved the chains and chewed up the clock. Maybe one or more of the three field-goal drives in the first half ends in a touchdown. There were other reasons the Steelers lost that game – three turnovers, eight penalties for 114 yards, the inability of the linebackers and secondary to contain Baltimore pass-catchers, etc. – but being able to run the ball effectively could have mitigated some of those shortcomings.

Maybe Blount’s presence changes the outcome of the wild card game. Maybe it doesn’t. But football is – and always will be – a war of attrition. As soon as Reggie Nelson’s helmet made contact with Bell’s right knee in the season finale, the Steelers were exposed for their lack of depth at the running back position. To avoid going into the playoffs with just an unproven practice-squad player and a rookie whose only talent seemed to be the ability to be knocked down by a stiff breeze, the Steelers signed a retread who hadn’t been able to stick with the Browns or Vikings during the regular season. Instead of Blount being the next man up, the Steelers went with a three-headed monster that produced next to nothing.

Say what you will about Blount and the metaphorical middle finger he gave to the Steelers when he walked off the field in Nashville last November, but his ring finger will soon be sporting a Super Bowl championship ring. That’s something the Steelers weren’t going to get with Ben Tate, Josh Harris and Dri Archer toting the rock in the playoffs. Bell has proven himself to be a great all-purpose weapon, but if he goes down again for any length of time, the Steelers must have a viable backup ready to take on Bell’s touches and make a meaningful contribution in the pursuit of victory. Kind of like Blount did for the Patriots.

 

Kevin Ritchart joined the Steelers Gab writing staff in January 2015. He is a veteran writer and editor who has a passion for all things black and gold. In addition covering local high school and college sports for the Trib Total Media family of newspapers for more than a decade, Kevin also possesses a wealth of professional experience in the fields of marketing and advertising. Kevin earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kentucky in 1998 and completed work on his MBA in marketing at Argosy University in 2013. He’s enjoying his current role of freelance writer and stay-at-home dad. You can follow Kevin on Facebook, Twitter @KevinRitchart and Google Plus. To see Kevin's full bio please go to our Meet Our Staff page.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. DrGeorge

    February 7, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Tomlin has a bad habit of falling in love with his own draft picks. He insists on vindication, even when the results do not justify it. It was so with Mendenhall, a #1 pick, who was no more productive than Redman, but remained Tomlin’s fair-haired boy much too long, despite a lack of production. It is so with Bell, whose talents may justify the preference, but caused Tomlin’s failure to use Blount effectively when he had him. It also explains his failure to use Will Johnson at RB, who has run well when called upon and catches as well as Bell out of the backfield. Johnson ought to be Bell’s backup and used often. But he won’t be. Tomlin’s blindness to talent that overshadows his draft picks is not limited to running backs, either — Pouncey and Mike Adams come immediately to mind as players who are “protected.” Part of the Steelers lack of production stems from a simple failure to use the talent they have effectively, and that tendency begins with the head coach.

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