Signing Knile Davis Makes Sense for the Pittsburgh Steelers

His lack of success as a running back leaves a void behind Le'Veon Bell, but he could certainly help the Steelers' special teams unit.

On Monday, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed a running back to likely take the place of DeAngelo Williams.

Knile Davis is that guy your dad owned on his fantasy team a year or so ago and repeatedly referred to him as "Kniles Davis".

Now that he's joining Pittsburgh, he will likely battle with Fitzgerald Toussaint for the backup role, but the team should also look at drafting a running back next month.

While he amassed over 280 touches during his tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs, Davis' lack of success is what landed him on the free agent market in the first place -- he was outplayed by teammates Jamaal Charles and Spencer Ware.

3rd Rock From the Sun

Using numberFire's Net Expected Points metric, we can see the difference between the three rushers from when Davis entered the league in 2013 through the end of the 2016 season.

Name Rushes Rushing NEP per Attempt Receptions Reception NEP per Target
Jamaal Charles 548 0.08 133 0.60
Knile Davis 250 -0.17 34 0.56
Spencer Ware 289 0.00 39 0.69

Any running back in comparison to Jamaal Charles is going to look worse, so this is a bit unfair, but if you just compare Davis' results to Ware's, you will see the difference. On 250 career carries, Davis finished on the negative side of things on a per-carry basis.

Davis did fine as a receiver, but still paled in comparison to his teammates. This lack of production will become worrisome for Pittsburgh if they were to lose Bell for any amount of time.

Dethroning DeAngelo

The Steelers are now likely moving on from DeAngelo Williams after his successful two-year stint in Pittsburgh. How do his two seasons compare to Davis' career thus far?

Name Rushes Rushing NEP per Attempt Receptions Reception NEP per Target
Knile Davis 250 -0.17 34 0.56
DeAngelo Williams 298 0.45 58 0.49

While Davis has done slightly better in the receiving department -- albeit with a smaller sample size -- he has been far worse in the rushing department.

Neither head coach Mike Tomlin nor the Steelers are openly saying Davis will replace Williams, so simply comparing the two and saying Davis was a bad signing is unfair. He has performed well as a kick returner, though, which is an area where the Steelers have struggled for years.

Diminishing Returns

Chris Adamski of the Tribune Review notes the Steelers have used 28 different kick returners during Tomlin's tenure. We all know Chuck Norris is the only person that can slam a revolving door, but maybe Davis can put a temporary stop to this revolving door of returners. The following team return statistics were pulled from ESPN.

Pittsburgh's highest ranking in average kick return yards over the past four seasons was 14th, which happened in 2015. This has been a weakness of theirs for quite a long time, and Davis' career average easily eclipses these numbers the team has produced in recent years.

While it's fair to say the Steelers downgraded their backup running back position, they have simultaneously improved their special teams unit. Special teams play tends to go unnoticed until something like this happens, so this signing could have more of an impact than we initially think sometime down the road.