While several Pittsburgh Steelers' rookies might be working with the first-team offense, head coach Mike Tomlin is telling the media to not buy into the hype too much. With rookies getting premium snaps during the first few days of training camp, several have impressed coaches. Running back Le'Veon Bell might be battling in a crowded position group, but so far he is the likely starter come Week 1.
The Steelers are targeting a return to their running roots this upcoming season. Not one to buy into the read-option trend, Tomlin is looking to increase the work load of the running backs this year. As Pittsburgh put on their pads for the first time on Monday, it was rookie running back Bell that found himself in the No. 1 spot all day. Bell is technically listed as a halfback, but spent the most time as the top running back the moment the first-team offense took the field.
Tomlin stressed that people should be cautious before dictating a depth chart saying, "but I'm sure you guys will run with it, so go ahead."
In 2012, the Steelers ranked No. 26 in the run game. That led them to using their second-round draft pick on Bell with the idea that he would be an every-down style back. He will compete against Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer for a starting spot on the team.
"He just wanted me to compete," Bell said. "I'm a rookie, a running back, I have to pass-protect. That's something he wants me to see so he put me against some of his better players."
Wide receiver Plaxico Burress recognizes that the Steelers are taking a more run-first approach this season. Tomlin has remained vocal about his distaste for the new wave offense in the NFL that has the quarterback running all over the field. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spent most of last season in a three-receiver set, but after losing players like Mike Wallace, the run game is now a focus.
"I mean, this is Pittsburgh," Burress said to USA TODAY Sports. "We're going to run the football, that's what our offense is going to be about. We're going to have to run the football. "Everybody else around the league is going ... up-tempo, flashy, four- and five-wide, pistol, shotgun, spread passing. We're going to stay true to our roots and run the football."
The Steelers promised a heavy ground game last season and only managed 96.1 yards per game. However, with emerging stars like Bell, 2013 might see a different style of offense.