Why DeAngelo Williams is a capable replacement for Le'Veon Bell

DeAngelo Williams may be asked to play a bigger role in the Steelers' offense once again. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

With running back Le’Veon Bell facing a four-game suspension to start the 2016 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers will likely turn to DeAngelo Williams once again to be their top back.

Williams accounted for 82 percent of the Steelers’ rushes with Bell suspended in Weeks 1 and 2 and 76 percent of Pittsburgh’s rushes with Bell injured after Week 8 last season.

Big shoes to fill

Bell has averaged 119 scrimmage yards per game in his NFL career. That’s the best average in the league since Bell was drafted in 2013.

But Williams wasn’t far behind that average when shouldering the load last season. He averaged 112 scrimmage yards per game in Weeks 1 and 2, which ranked ninth in the NFL. Williams averaged the same number of yards from scrimmage from Week 9 through the end of the regular season, fourth-best in the NFL.

Antonio Brown (142), Julio Jones (123) and Odell Beckham Jr. (114) are the only players who averaged more scrimmage yards per game than Williams after Week 8 last season.

The Steelers averaged 32 points per game in 10 games with Williams and without Bell last season. They averaged 17.3 points per game in six games with both Bell and Williams in 2015.

With Williams on the field and Bell off the field for 642 snaps last season, Pittsburgh averaged 6.8 yards per play. They averaged 5.4 yards per play in 273 snaps with Bell on the field and Williams off the field.

Better with age

At 32 years old, Williams had a bounce-back year in 2015 in which he rushed for his most yards since 2009 and scored his most rushing touchdowns since 2008. Williams’ 11 rushing touchdowns were tied with Adrian Peterson, Devonta Freeman and Jeremy Hill for most in the NFL last season.

Williams will be 33 when the season starts. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last Steelers running back who ran the ball in a season opener at age 33 or older was Franco Harris, who did so at age 33 in 1983.

Fantasy impact

Entering today, Bell had the third-highest average draft position out of all players in ESPN standard leagues, behind only Brown and Beckham.

From Week 9 on last season, Williams averaged 16.1 fantasy points per game, most among all running backs over that span. Peterson ranked second with 14.6 fantasy points per game.