Eddie Lacy's case for rookie of the year

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Eddie Lacy's case for the NFL's offensive rookie of the year award keeps getting stronger.

And wouldn't it be fitting if he helped solidify it on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers?

It was the Steelers who reportedly "would not touch" Lacy because of toe fusion surgery he had before his final year at Alabama. If Lacy needed any extra motivation, which he said he did not, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said this week that picking running back Le'Veon Bell in the second round ahead of Lacy was "an easy decision."

"I mean, you can use it for motivation," Lacy said Wednesday. "But I'm not one to use external factors for motivation."

It was a rocky start for Lacy, who was the 61st overall pick in the draft.

He was criticized for being out of shape, something that wasn't helped by an unflattering picture that appeared to catch him in an awkward position during training camp. He fumbled in the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers and then was knocked out of the Week 2 game against the Washington Redskins because of a concussion that also sidelined him the next week against the Cincinnati Bengals (another team that picked a different running back ahead of Lacy).

Since then, Lacy's conditioning has not been an issue, he has not missed another game despite battling a sprained right ankle the past two weeks and he has been the most productive running back in the NFL since he returned in Week 5. In that stretch, he has an NFL-best 977 yards rushing. With 141 yards on 21 carries in Sunday's win over the Dallas Cowboys, Lacy was named the NFC's offensive player of the week and became the first Packers running back to rush for 1,000 yards as a rookie since John Brockington in 1971.

With 1,028 yards, Lacy ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing. The next-best rookie is Zac Stacy, a fifth-round pick of the St. Louis Rams, who ranks 10th with 854 yards. Bell, the second running back taken in the draft behind Giovani Bernard, ranks 24th in the league with 646 yards rushing.

“They picked the guy they wanted, and I landed here,” Lacy said. “And I'm very happy here, and I'm doing good.”

Bernard, who was taken 37th overall, is one spot ahead of Bell in the rankings with 653 rushing yards. Montee Ball, the only other back taken ahead of Lacy, ranks 42nd with 455 yards for the Denver Broncos.

More so than his statistics, Lacy has impressed with his running style. The 5-foot-11, 230-pounder has shown a penchant for breaking tackles and carrying the pile.

"He'll rush for a 10-yard gain and be mad at himself because he didn't make another guy miss," Packers right guard T.J. Lang said. "That's the attitude that you love to see, man. He's never satisfied. He's always looking for more."

Last week, ESPN Stats & Information provided some insight on a few of the top candidates for the rookie of the year award.

None of the rookies at any position ranks as high in their respective statistical categories as Lacy does in the rushing yardage. The top rookie receiver, Keenan Allen of the San Diego Chargers, ranks 36th in the NFL in receptions (63) and 21st in receiving yards (931). Minnesota Vikings rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has made his biggest impact on special teams, with two kickoff returns for touchdowns. None of the rookie quarterbacks playing -- Mike Glennon in Tampa Bay, EJ Manuel in Buffalo and Geno Smith with the Jets -- have done enough to warrant serious consideration.