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Stellar performances from fill-ins show depth of Steelers

Fill-ins Williams and Heyward-Bey figure to stay involved even as Pittsburgh starters return

Stellar performances from fill-ins show depth of Steelers

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The NFL's second-leading rusher is about to lose his starting job on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The wide receiver who has already quadrupled his entire 2014 output remains a placeholder, at least for now.

And if DeAngelo Williams and Darrius Heyward-Bey are being honest, they're fine with it. Then again, considering the players they've been filling in for, they don't really have a choice.

Williams will step aside for All-Pro Le'Veon Bell when Bell returns from a two-game suspension on Sunday at St. Louis.

Heyward-Bey will almost certainly see his spot in the rotation change when Martavis Bryant has his four-week league-enforced absence end next month.

While Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin made it a point to thank the 32-year-old Williams for his contributions --including 127 yards rushing in the Steelers' season-opening loss to the Patriots and a team-record-tying three rushing touchdowns in last Sunday's romp over San Francisco -- Tomlin left little doubt Tuesday about who will be in the backfield with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in St. Louis.

"I'm going to play Le'Veon Bell," Tomlin said.

Williams, who called Pittsburgh's top-ranked offense "a beautiful puzzle," made sure to take a bow after his three scores versus the 49ers. Consider it a signature move for the professional wrestling fan, one that might have to be put on the shelf with Bell back in the fold.

Bell's suspension resulted from his arrest on drug and DUI charges in August 2014. The 23-year-old finished second in the league in all-purpose yards in 2014 and trimmed his body fat to 4 percent during the offseason. He believes he's in the best shape of his life and is easily one of the best receiving backs in the NFL.

Yet Williams showed there is plenty of power left in his legs even after a decade in the NFL. His three short scoring runs against San Francisco highlighted his ability to find a crease at the goal line or create one on his own, something Bell is still working on.

"He showed he can come in and help this team," Bell said. "We are different styles of runners, so I think they will use us both."

And the Steelers will surely find a way to keep Heyward-Bey in the mix even after Bryant completes his suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

In Bryant's absence, Heyward-Bey has shown flashes of why Oakland took him in the first round in the 2009 NFL draft. He atoned for a miscue against New England -- when he failed to get both feet down in the end zone despite being wide open -- by running for a 35-yard touchdown that put the Steelers up 22-3.

He already has 135 yards receiving and his eight receptions are his most through the first two games of a season in his career.

Updated : 2022-01-22 16:41 GMT+08:00