The Pittsburgh Steelers will meet with one of the league's big-name free-agent running backs Friday, and DeAngelo Williams believes he "still (has) a few years left in me. I'm just ready for the next chapter of life."
Williams was officially released this week after rushing for 6,846 yards and 46 touchdowns in nine seasons with the Panthers.
Brandon Croce, the publisher of PantherInsider in the Scout.com network, provided SteelCityInsider.net with his expert analysis on the 5-9, 215-pound Williams.
"It's tough to get a gauge on DeAngelo Williams," Croce wrote in an e-mail. "He passed that dreaded 30-year mark for running backs before the 2013 season but saw his numbers really drop off last year. He had career lows in attempts, rushing yards, yards per carry, and for the first time in his career did not score a touchdown."
Croce cited two contributing factors to Williams' decline in 2014.
"The first was a number of injuries which limited him to only six games, and he struggled to get in a rhythm when on the field," wrote Croce. "The other factor that I believe contributed to his poor play was the fact that his mother passed away last off-season due to breast cancer. Williams was very close to his mom and I am sure that weighed on him last year."
Williams, in his post-release interview with the TV station, expressed dismay with the Panthers for not sending a representative to the funeral. In fact, the only player to attend was alleged bad boy Greg Hardy.
"Nobody came to the funeral," Williams said. "The owner didn't reach out. He didn't say anything. Never talked to me. Nobody upstairs ever talked to me. The only two people who ever said anything to me were Coach (Ron) Rivera and (General Manager) Dave Gettleman. Everybody else was ... they were busy because it was the draft."
Williams added, "I was upset with Carolina because the last five or six years during October, [my mom] was celebrated, but then when she was no longer here -- let's move on. [I was] very disappointed, and somewhat angry ... it stung to know that a place of business that you've worked for, you've bled, you've played through injuries, you've done everything you possibly can for this organization to be successful, and then upon your darkest hour they let you handle it by yourself."
Williams' mother, Sandra Hill, died days after her 53rd birthday after a long fight that began in 2004. After a period of remission, the cancer returned in 2010.
Williams also struggled with nagging injuries last season. After rushing for 843 yards (4.2 ypc.) in 2013 -- his most productive season since his Pro Bowl season of 2009 -- Williams opened the 2014 season with 72 yards on 14 carries against Tampa Bay. He injured a hamstring in practice the next week and missed the next two games, including the loss to the Steelers. He returned to rush for 34 yards on 11 carries against Baltimore, but suffered a high ankle sprain that cost him the next four games. Williams returned to rush for 113 yards in four games as the backup to Jonathan Stewart, but broke his right middle finger in Game 12 and missed the final four regular-season games. Williams appeared healthy in the playoffs and rushed for 30 yards on six carries in two games.
"Another reason for the poor numbers," Croce wrote, "could be due to the fact that he was playing behind an awful offensive line for the Panthers. This group was really bad to start the year and didn't get better until the second half with two rookies inserted at guard. At this point Jonathan Stewart was running wild and was the featured back. The only time Williams got a chance to play behind this line was in the playoffs and he averaged 5 yards a carry."
Two other assets for Williams, a first-round pick in 2006 out of Memphis, are ball security and his receiving skills. Williams has fumbled only 12 times (lost 10) in 1,617 career touches; one fumble every 135 touches. He's caught 178 passes with a 9.1 yards-per-catch average.
"As for what the Steelers may be getting," Croce wrote in conclusion, "I think they would get a motivated running back. Williams wants nothing more than to prove he
can still play in this league and could be a great backup/complementary running back to Le'Veon Bell. If he was to get between 10-15 touches a game, either running the ball or catching out of the backfield, it seems to make a lot of sense for where he is at his point in his career. If Bell went down, Williams could probably shoulder the load as the feature back for a game or two; however, long stretches wouldn't be ideal."
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