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October 25, 2015: Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) during the NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire)
Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers could use Bell and Williams together in backfield

(Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire)

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Steelers will face a quandary next week. A good quandary, mind you, but a quandary nonetheless.

Running back Le’Veon Bell will rejoin the team next Wednesday when the Steelers (2-0) begin preparations for their game against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night at Heinz Field. Bell’s three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy concludes Sunday following the game against the Eagles (2-0) at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Backup running back DeAngelo Williams has a league-leading 237 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 58 carries. The 33-year-old ageless wonder also has 10 receptions for 66 yards and a score.

The Steelers have made it clear that Bell will be their No. 1 back when he returns. The 24-year-old was an All-Pro in 2014 when his 1,361 rushing yards were second in the league.

Williams also shined at the beginning of last season while Bell served a two-game drug suspension, rushing for 204 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries while catching five passes for 20 yards. However, once Bell returned in Week 3, Williams got just 14 touches in the next five games with 13 rushes and one reception. When Bell sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 8, Williams again took over the bulk of the load.

The Steelers, as NFL teams are wont to do, are keeping future plans close to the vest. Yet it would seem that Williams will return to the bench next week.

However, Williams has played so well early in the season that it is worth wondering if the Steelers might employ some two-back sets to get both Bell and Williams on the field at the same time. Having both players would add yet another dynamic wrinkle to an offense that is fourth in the league in scoring with an average of 31.0 points a game.

Cutting down Bell’s carries could also keep him healthier after each of his last two seasons were ended by knee injuries.

Williams was part of a two-back system throughout the first nine seasons of his career with the Carolina Panthers from 2006-14, pairing with DeShaun Foster his first two years and Jonathan Stewart the last seven. Williams has credited all the years of splitting carries for playing a large part in his longevity. He surpassed the 10,000-yard career mark in total offense in last Sunday’s 24-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, raising his total to 10,044 — 7,990 rushing and 2,054 receiving.

September 18, 2016:   Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams (34) looks at the ball after making a touchdown during a NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire)

Following the game, Williams did not outright lobby for a two-back system. However, he did admit he felt it could benefit the Steelers.

“I mean, we will have that option,” Williams said. “The thing I wanted to do once I got here is, when Le’Veon Bell came off the field it didn’t take any pressure off the defense, and that’s been my main goal since I have been here. And having the rapport that I do with the offensive line as well as the rapport that he has with them, I think that the two-back system would work here.”

Williams, though, said he is only in favor of a two-back offense if coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley believe it would help the team win more games. Williams says he no longer thinks about individual statistics after never getting past the divisional round of the playoffs in his long career.

“I am hunting one thing and one thing only, and that is a Super Bowl,” Williams said.

Steelers could use Bell and Williams together in backfield

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