Can Bernard Pierce Hold On To The Starting Job?


Sep 11, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Bernard Pierce (30) runs with the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens fans have seen this act before.  Bernard Pierce was touted as the “running back of the future” following an impressive rookie campaign as a complementary piece to Ray Rice.  This offseason, he was not only going to start the first two games of the season, but many (including us), though that he would seize the opportunity and retain the job for good.

It was a realistic idea.  Pierce flashed starting chops before his injury marred 2013 season, and he is the kind of physical, one cut runner that has historically succeeded in Gary Kubiak’s offenses of old.  Pierce has the size – 6″, 230 pounds, of a prototypical starting NFL running back.  And he had the blessing of the coaching staff and the entire Ravens organization.

The Ravens still need a big, bruising back to grind between the tackles and soften the middle of the defense, and that back is Bernard Pierce.

But when week one rolled around and Bernard Pierce got his first chance to shine, he responded by taking six carries for a mere 17 yards (2.8 avg) and then lost the first fumble of his career.  The Ravens promptly gave Pierce the hook, and he watched from the sidelines as Justin Forsett took his 11 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown.  Just like that, it appeared that Bernard Pierce might have lost his big chance.

Speculation that Forsett might be the new starter was circling around, and for good reason.  Against the Bengals, at least, he appeared to be the best running back of the two.  Forsett also played under Gary Kubiak in Houston, giving him advanced knowledge of the offense.  Perhaps Pierce had just experienced one of the shortest auditions in NFL history.

But the Ravens continued to support Pierce through the days leading up to Thursday night’s matchup against the Steelers. While head coach John Harbaugh refused to name a starter, he reiterated that all the running backs would play a big role going forward.  Whispers that the Ravens still wanted Bernard Pierce as their starter began to flow.

More from Ravens News

Thursday night, those whispers proved to be true.  Bernard Pierce started, and dominated carries with 22.  He didn’t fumble this time around, and was pretty efficient on his way to 96 yards (4.4 avg).  Meanwhile, Justin Forsett played the role of a change of pace back, receiving 8 carries for 56 yards (7.0 avg).

Can we expect the same thing going forward, and can Bernard Pierce retain the starting job for the entire season?  All signs point to yes.  In addition to the support of the team and coaching staff, Pierce has prototypical size and talent.  Forsett is 29 years old, and is a bit pint undersized at 5’8″ and 197 pounds.  Impressive as his stats may be, can he hold up between the tackles for the length of a season?

It looks like Forsett will continue to play a major role as a speedy, pass catching complement to Pierce’s inside running.  And it is a role he has excelled in thus far.  The Ravens still need a big, bruising back to grind between the tackles and soften the middle of the defense, and that back is Bernard Pierce.  In fact, it’s likely that rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro, himself a big bruiser, is actually the direct backup to Pierce, not Forsett.

The Ravens obviously want a physical running game to complement their physical style of play.  Bernard Pierce fits that bill, and if he continues to perform, he will keep the starting job for the duration of the season.