AFC North Positional Rankings: Running Back
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
RB1: Le’Veon Bell (1st among starters)
RB2: DeAngelo Williams (3rd among backups)
RB3: Dri Archer
FB: Will Johnson
Le’Veon Bell is the best running back in the AFC North and possibly in the NFL. Although his sample size of just two seasons is a little too small for my choosing, there’s no way that I can deny that as of now, Le’Veon Bell is one of the NFL’s best running backs. He excels as a runner due to his patience, explosiveness, strength, quickness and smarts. And to add to his already impressive running abilities, Bell is one of the NFL’s best pass-catching running backs, plus he can block.
Bell has racked up an impressive 2,221 rushing yards and 1,253 receiving yards in just two seasons. He’s scored 19 total touchdowns and has only fumbled once. In 2014, Bell’s 1,361 rushing yards and 73 runs for first downs were second in the NFL only to DeMarco Murray. His 854 receiving yards were 40th in the league among all players and the most of any running back. He racked up 83 receptions, more than the likes of T.Y. Hilton, Rob Gronkowski, Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green. Bell was dominant in 2014, and many thought of him as the NFL’s best back, including NFL-great, LaDanian Tomlinson.
And to add to Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers also boast the NFL’s 10th ranked fullback, per BleacherReport.com. Will Johnson has done an outstanding job in clearing the way for Bell and has also caught a few meaningful passes to keep defenses on their toes.
But although Bell is the division’s best running back, this list ranks each team’s ability to run the ball over each individual’s ability. And for this reason, the Steelers are lower than the Bengals. While DeAngelo Williams’ career has had some great moments, he is a 32-year-old running back on the decline. Pittsburgh will already struggle winning games in its first two weeks after Le’Veon Bell was suspended for three games (the suspension was then appealed and lowered to two games). And Pittsburgh may be in trouble if it will need to depend on the former Panther for more than its first two games of the season; Williams has been less than durable in his career, starting 10 or more games in only five of his nine years pro. While Williams is still a serviceable backup, it’s Cincinnati’s impressive one-two punch at running back that bumps Pittsburgh to number two on this list.