It may be a passing league, the rules may reward those teams who love to throw the ball, but the Steelers told the rest of the NFL through the first two rounds of the draft where they stand, and it's a philosophy that hasn't changed much through the years: Run the ball, play good defense. After bypassing the best tight end and some of the best receivers available to draft a pass-rushing linebacker Thursday, the Steelers followed by taking a big running back on the second round Friday. Le'Veon Bell, who is 6-1 and down to 230 pounds after carrying 244 pounds at Michigan State last season, helped fill the Steelers' biggest need on offense. "It puts us back in a place where we can have a chance to run the ball and throw the ball out of the backfield successfully,'' said offensive coordinator Todd Haley. They did not forsake their need at wide receiver, however, and drafted Oregon State's Markus Wheaton in the third round, where they have hit big many times in the past including the man he likely will replace on the roster, Mike Wallace. In fact, with the pick of outside linebacker Jarvis Jones on the first round, the Steelers filled what likely were their three biggest needs in the first three rounds of the draft. The Steelers wanted to run the ball better in 2012 than they did the previous few seasons and instead they regressed, partly due to injuries to their backs and in their offensive line. They were 26th in the NFL with 1,537 yards rushing last season. Earlier in the day, they also added former Pitt halfback LaRod Stephens-Howling, a Johnstown native. He was an unrestricted free agent from the Arizona Cardinals, where he rushed for 652 yards in four seasons after they drafted him in the seventh round in 2009. He will add depth to their backfield and becomes the prime candidate to return kickoffs. Bell, 21, started 19 straight games at Michigan State, where he had 3,346 career yards and a 5-yard average per carry. He led the Big 10 last season with 1,793 yards, fifth best in the country and second-most in Spartans history. He also had 32 receptions in 2012. Haley compared the Columbus, Ohio native to Eddie George, the former Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State who played nine seasons in the NFL, because of his size and how he plays. "He is a good athlete. We love the fact that he catches the ball really well and he still has that big-back presence.'' Bell was the second back drafted after none went in the first round for the first time in 50 years. Cincinnati grabbed Giovani Bernard with the fifth pick in the second round. Haley said the Steelers rated Bell highest among the backs. Alabama's Eddie Lacy, considered possibly the only back of first-round quality, was not drafted until Green Bay took him at No. 29 of the second round, the fourth back to go.
Steelers filling needs quickly in NFL draft
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Apr 27