|Le'Veon Bell's Fantasy value took a hit with the addition of LeGarrette Blount. (USATSI)|
When the Steelers signed running back LeGarrette Blount, many took it as a sign Pittsburgh was going back to its roots. The Steelers were going to pound opponents with Le'Veon Bell (6-1, 244) and Blount (6-0, 250), and finally show true run/pass balance.
The top beat reporter covering the team, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, doesn't see it that way. Asked if the team would migrate toward the run now that Blount's in the fold, Bouchette replied:
"Not necessarily. I do not think they want to run more often (italics added). They want to run more effectively and that was Art Rooney's wish, quality not quantity. However, they ran only 38.5 percent of the time last season. I believe some of that can be attributed to them falling behind and having to throw more often in the second half. Some also had to do with the lack of quality backs, until Le'Veon Bell became healthy and effective. In 2012, they ran 40.3 percent of the time."
Pittsburgh ranked 26th in run percentage last season, 21st the year before. The team ranked 25th with 394 rush attempts last year, 20th with 412 carries in 2012. This team is still built around Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and the passing game, and that won't change with Blount's arrival. Although they lost Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery in free agency, the Steelers plan to draft a tall wideout early and are bullish on second-year pro Markus Wheaton.
Assuming Bell stays healthy, we can expect Pittsburgh to creep back up over the 40/60 run/pass ratio. But that's all. Figure around 420 team rushing attempts.
Dave Richard believes Blount could get 150 touches. He was highly effective getting 155 touches (153 carries, 2 receptions) with New England last year. Richard dropped Bell a few spots to No. 11 in his RB rankings, behind Montee Ball, Alfred Morris, Giovani Bernard and DeMarco Murray.
Jamey Eisenberg has little faith in Blount and he's still very high on Bell, ranking him the No. 7 RB. Blount's signing caused Eisenberg to drop Bell one spot, behind Ball.
Nathan Zegura splits the difference and ranks Bell ninth.
The Steelers had no legitimate back behind Bell last year. Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones ate up 97 carries without scoring. Blount, on the other hand, has a nose for the end zone. He ran for seven touchdowns as a part-time player for the Patriots, adding four more scores in the playoff win over Indy. He ran for 11 touchdowns in his first two pro seasons in Tampa.
The Post-Gazette said Blount "instantly provides the Steelers with a viable option in the red zone, where the offense struggled at times last season."
The possibility of Blount vulturing some scores is another reason to keep expectations in check for Bell.