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Steelers eye power runner to team with Bell

| Thursday, March 27, 2014, 11:39 p.m.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wants an experienced running back locked up by this weekend. LeGarrette Blount would appear to be that man.

With free agency winding down, the talent pool thinning and the Steelers still searching for someone to team with Le'Veon Bell, they are expected to make a strong push to sign Blount, a former 1,000-yard back with Tampa Bay.

General manager Kevin Colbert and Tomlin attended the Johnny Manziel-Mike Evans workout Thursday at Texas A&M, but hustled back to meet with Blount, whose running style seems to be a good fit for the Steelers' offense.

“I think his resume speaks for itself,” Tomlin said of Blount, who has 2,711 yards in four NFL seasons. “He is one that could potentially add value to us.”

The 250-pound Blount would be a straight-ahead, power-running complement to Bell, who gained 860 yards in 13 games as a rookie. Blount also would be an insurance policy in case of injury. The Steelers saw what happened last season when they didn't have a suitable backup for Bell.

With Bell out after injuring a foot and knee during training camp, the Steelers were outrushed 346-155 in their first three games. They lost all three.

Their offense didn't get going until Bell returned nearly a month into a season — the Steelers were No. 6 in the league in scoring over the second half — but that winless September ultimately capsized their playoff chances.

They don't want to go through a similar situation again, sifting through multiple running backs desperately searching for yards once the season starts, and they would prefer to lock up a proven back such as Blount.

Blount ran for 1,007 yards despite starting only seven games for Tampa Bay as an undrafted rookie out of Oregon in 2010. He followed that with a 781-yard season in 2011, but fell out of favor after Greg Schiano was hired as the Bucs' coach.

After gaining only 151 yards on 41 carries as Doug Martin got most of the carries in 2012, Blount was traded to the Patriots for former track star Jeff Demps and a seventh-round pick last year.

Blount took a while to find a niche in New England, which had four running backs start games in Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden and Blount.

But Blount ended the season with a 189-yard, two-touchdown game against the Bills, giving him 772 yards for the season, one fewer than Ridley, and he followed that by running through the Colts for 166 yards and four touchdowns in a divisional playoff win. He struggled in the AFC title game against Denver and managed only six yards on five carries.

Blount, who is 27, isn't an effective receiver out of the backfield, but the Steelers have Bell for that role.

With Knowshon Moreno headed to the Dolphins, Blount and Maurice Jones-Drew are the only attractive remaining free-agent running backs. Jones-Drew met with the Steelers last week but didn't sign, and is expected to visit Oakland on Friday. Blount made $630,000 last season.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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