Steelers' DeAngelo Williams only old off field

Nancy Armour
USA TODAY Sports
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Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams passed 10,000 yards from scrimmage Sunday.

PITTSBURGH — Here it was again, somebody bringing up DeAngelo Williams and his “advanced age.”

Fresh off a career-high 32 carries, the Pittsburgh Steelers running back launched into an impassioned explanation of why he’s not old. How the two-back system he played in for Carolina and his detailed training regimen have allowed him to remain productive at 33, when most guys at his position are chewed up and spit out before they’re 25.

And then his cell phone rang, the lyrics of Nickelback’s Rockstar clear as day.

“I’m through with standing in line to clubs we’ll never get in …”

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“Don’t judge me!” Williams said, holding up his hands. “I’m a Nickelback fan.”

Oh, Williams is old all right, his circa 2005 ring tone putting an emphatic end to that argument. (His questionable taste in music is a topic for another day.)

But whether Williams is 33 or 23 doesn’t matter as long as he’s shredding defenses the way he did in Sunday’s 24-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh’s AFC North rival and detention hall buddy.

In addition to his 94 yards on the ground, he had 38 yards receiving, including a 4-yard score that sealed the victory. That put Williams over 10,000 yards from scrimmage for his career, only the 13th active player to reach that mark.

It’s the second week in a row Williams has come up big for the Steelers, following his 143 yards in the season opener against Washington. And his performances are made even bigger by the absence of Le’Veon Bell, who is serving a three-game suspension for missed drug tests.

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“I’m happy for the guy — especially for the type of breakup he had in Carolina,” Pittsburgh guard Ramon Foster said. “To see a guy jumping off the bridge the way he has with these games, everyone doubting him because of his age, everybody comes at him with everything, to see him play the way he is, man, there’s nothing more than I want for that dude to come here and win a Super Bowl.”

Williams spent the first nine years of his career with the Panthers, becoming that franchise’s leading rusher despite sharing the load with Jonathan Stewart. But the Panthers cut Williams after the 2014 season.

Though the Steelers had Bell, they were more than happy to add Williams to the backfield — a move that paid off big when Bell tore up his knee last Nov. 1. Williams would shoulder the burden as the Steelers made a late playoff run, and he’s happy to do so again until Bell returns from his suspension if it gets him a ring.

“I’m hunting one thing and one thing only and that’s the Super Bowl,” Williams said. “The 10,000 yards, up until this point it hasn’t translated to a Super Bowl so it means nothing.”

The same could be said for Sunday’s win, which gives the Steelers the early edge in the rough-and-tumble AFC North.

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Already rivals because of their geography, the hostility between the Bengals and Steelers has become decidedly nasty in recent years. The NFL doled out more than $200,000 in fines just for their last two games last year, and the effects of the brutality in the wild-card game was still being felt Sunday.

The Bengals were without linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who is serving a three-game suspension for his illegal hit that knocked Antonio Brown out of the playoff game. Tensions run so high that the NFL told officials to keep a close watch so things wouldn’t get out of hand — and made sure both teams knew it.

Whether it was the adult supervision, the rainy conditions or simply playing a game as big as this in the second week of the season, this game was surprisingly … boring. Overthrown passes here. Balls off hands there. Barely any signs of Brown anywhere.

The teams combined for just 10 penalties, and not a personal foul among them.

"We'll see them (expletives) again,” Bengals cornerback Adam Jones said. “Can't wait until we see them again.”

When he does, Williams will be waiting. His ring tone might be past its prime, but he most definitely is not.

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