Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin coached at Memphis early in his career, so he’s well versed in what DeAngelo Williams accomplished at the school before the Carolina Panthers drafted him in the first round in 2006.
“I mean, this guy’s an NCAA 6,000-yard rusher. That’s a small fraternity,” Tomlin said of the Steelers’ new running back. “I think anybody that studies players in our business, that would end up on your radar.”
Williams’ workload at Memphis and his injury-plagued season last year have led some to wonder how much he has left. But Tomlin believes the fact that Williams shared carries in Carolina kept his legs fresh and gives him a good perspective on a similar approach in Pittsburgh.
“Over the last seven years he’s a guy that shared the workload with another talented runner in Jonathan Stewart, who I’ve got a great deal of respect for,” Tomlin said. “So I think his experience lends itself to our team makeup because we have a guy of the caliber of Le’Veon Bell.”
The Panthers cut Williams, their all-time rushing leader, on March 10 after the worst season of his nine-year career. Injuries limited Williams to six games, and he finished with career lows in carries (62), rushing yards (219) and touchdowns (0).
Williams turns 32 next month and has 2,401 regular-season carries, counting his time in Memphis and Charlotte. But Tomlin think Williams still has a burst.
“Particularly in a short space area, he’s always been a guy that’s been able to stick his foot in the ground and change directions,” Tomlin said. “I still see that in my tape study and I’m looking forward to getting around him on a day-to-day basis.”