PITTSBURGH - Since Jerome Bettis retired after the 2005 NFL season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have searched for a big, bruising running back in his mold.
The list of hopefuls has been long, if not particularly distinguished.
Verron Haynes, Najee Davenport, Carey Davis, Gary Russell, Frank Summers, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman all failed to consistently provide production in short-yardage and goal line situations.
Enter LeGarrette Blount. The 6-foot, 250-pound veteran certainly looks the part. And while he has a long way to go to be mentioned with the likes of Bettis, there have been plenty of flashes during his four seasons in the league. Blount averaged 5.0 yards per carry while splitting time with Stevan Ridley in New England last season, and gashed the Indianapolis Colts for 166 yards and four touchdowns in the playoffs.
Though second-year back Le'Veon Bell remains the starter, Blount is confident he can make an impact no matter what situation.
"I know they brought me in here to run the football, so I hope there are plenty of carries to go around," Blount said Wednesday. "I know that Le'Veon is going to get his fair share, so I hope there's enough for all of us."
Bell, last year's second-round pick, missed the opening three games while recovering from a preseason foot injury. But he still played nearly 700 snaps, a heavy workload the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Bell managed with ease. Still, the Steelers will find opportunities to go from the patient and pragmatic Bell to the bruising Blount, with the emphasis on bruising.
"That's my running style," Blount said. "That's how I run the football, and I feel like (Bell) is also a big, tough running back, too. So, that's just how this team is built, with a physical running game, and I think that's what they're trying to get back to. So, hopefully, we can do that."
Blount noted a balanced offense is needed to make a run to the Super Bowl such as the ones by Seattle and Denver last year. The champion Seahawks had Marshawn Lynch running the ball and Russell Wilson throwing it, while the Broncos ran the ball with Knowshon Moreno when Peyton Manning wasn't breaking NFL passing records.
"I think it's huge for us to (sign Blount), because I've always said that we need to be a balanced offense," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "So, we need to run the ball. We need to be great at running the ball, and we've got guys that want to be great at running the ball. So, hopefully, we can do it and do it successfully."
Blount added that while his body type and size make him an ideal power back, he has a variety of skill sets, such as catching the football and running away from defenders in the open field. But he certainly has proven he can run over them as well. Those attributes, combined with Bell's slashing style, should give the Steelers a solid one-two punch.
"I think we have a really good mix of running backs," Blount said. "[But] I've seen the NFL Network, and they have these top 10 or top five running back duos in the NFL. I noticed that we're not one of them, and I don't like it. In all honesty, I believe they're downgrading the skill level that we have in our backfield. . I think that's kind of disrespectful."
Does that mean Blount and Bell have something to prove?
"We're not going to go out here and go on about how we're not in that group," Blount said. "But we're going to go out there and show that we belong there with our performance."
Notes: RB Dri Archer has missed the opening two OTAs, just like linebacker Jordan Zumwalt from UCLA, because his school is on the quarters system and their class has not yet graduated. ... OTAs continue today and also run Tuesday through Thursday next week.