Blount should be a force for Steelers

PITTSBURGH – ESPN.com columnist Jeffri Chadiha hit it flush with his piece on the Steelers embracing change and youth to get back to the smash mouth sensibilities that have long defined the franchise.

They have gotten younger and faster on defense, which is vital considering you have to be able to catch the opposition before you can stick them. The Steelers have also added Mike Munchak to coach the offensive line, and they signed LeGarrette Blount to complement the emerging Le’Veon Bell at running back.

Bell and Blount give the Steelers their best 1-2 punch at running back -- with an emphasis on punch -- since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach in 2007.

And it’s still something of a wonder the Steelers were able to land a back the caliber of Blount to add depth to their backfield.

The 6-feet, 250-pounder rampaged through NFL defenses at the end of last season yet he signed a two-year, $3.85 million contract with the Steelers even with the team committed to Bell.

“I feel like anywhere I go I was going to play,” Blount said on why he signed with the Steelers. “A lot of teams have their No. 1 guy, and (in Pittsburgh) we don’t have a big running back stable so I feel like I’m going to play a lot here and I feel like we’re going to win.”

There is no question that the Steelers feel Blount can help them do the latter.

When asked what Blount adds to the team, Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey said, “His demeanor. He’s a big back. He runs hard. A guy like that is hard to take down. We need that.”

Blount’s build oozes power. He doesn’t make the sturdy Bell look like a scat back but the fourth-year veteran is considerably thicker than the Steelers’ leading rusher last season.

Blount also showed in New England that he doesn’t need a regular does of carries to be effective as a runner. He got less than 10 carries in eight of the Patriots’ regular-season games in 2013 yet he still averaged 5.0 yards per carry on the way to 772 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

It is anyone’s guess how the division of labor in a new-look backfield will shake out but in Blount the Steelers at least have a viable option at running back should Bell get hurt.

That is something they didn’t have last season when Bell missed the first three games because of a foot injury and the Steelers averaged an anemic 52 rushing yards in those contests.

Blount’s addition should also allow the Steelers to rely less heavily on Bell -- and extend the number of productive years he has in the NFL -- and not suffer a drop-off when he is on the sidelines.

“I think it’s huge for us because I’ve always said we need a balanced offense,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of the signing of Blount. “We need to be great at running the ball and we’ve got guys that want to be great at running the ball.”