The Pittsburgh Steelers got some good news on Tuesday when it was announced that rookie running back Le’Veon Bell would return to practice.
However Bell’s return is not imminent, leaving the Steelers in the same bad predicament they have been in the past two seasons when it comes to their running back situation.
That begs the question of whether or not former Dallas Cowboy Felix Jones is the next man up to get a shot?
It looks as if he will.
Scoring only 19 points in two games is unacceptable at any level and with the Steelers offense struggling so bad, head coach Mike Tomlin has hinted at personnel changes.
The first change could be in the backfield, where the Steelers rank 31st in the NFL in rushing, gaining only 75 years in two games, averaging a mere 2.4 yards per carry.
All signs point towards Jones taking over for Isaac Redman until Bell is ready to play.
“The running game was below the line,” Tomlin explained via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “But I was encouraged by Felix Jones and what he’ll be able to do moving forward. He knew when to bounce it and when to put his foot in the ground and get vertical. There were some things we can build upon.”
In the grand scheme of things that’s not great news as Jones won’t fix the struggles on the ground, but it is the best news Steelers fans can hope for at the moment.
Jones is clearly the most talented of the healthy backs the Steelers currently have and has shown he can do some good things at the NFL level. He also has the speed to make things happen, something the likes of Redman and Jonathan Dwyer simply don’t have.
But his problem has always been consistency and doing the little things.
Jones underachieved in Dallas and couldn’t separate himself from the likes of Marion Barber, Tashard Choice and others. It’s doubtful that he will have much impact on this struggling Steelers’ rushing attack, especially behind an abysmal offensive line that creates very little push.
But he is a very good athlete and he has the best chance of the Steelers backs of providing minimal success on the ground, which is something that would actually represent an improvement.
Gaining four or five yards on first down and moving the chains occasionally would represent an upgrade.
Another bonus is that Jones can catch the ball out of the backfield, which should give Ben Roethlisberger a weapon. that’s big considering the fact that Steelers backs have caught only six passes for 25 yards through two games.
However there are drawbacks to Jones’ potential increased playing time as well as he has never been particularly good when it comes to pass protection. Given the rate that opposing teams are putting pressure on Roethlisberger, that’s a risky proposition.
But even though it took three weeks, it makes sense to start turning to your most talented players, especially on a team that lacks overall talent at several key positions.
Jones currently leads the Steelers in rushing, which isn’t anything to brag about, with 37 yards on 10 carries.
It will be interesting to see how much Todd Haley works Jones into the gameplan when the Steelers play host to the Chicago Bears Sunday night.