When the Ravens drafted Bernard Pierce in the third round, the running back out of Temple had the tall order of replacing veteran Ricky Williams as the complementary piece to franchise running back Ray Rice.
Pierce has proved to be up to the task, especially lately, as he's taken on more of a workload in recent weeks.
The last two weeks, Pierce has carried 17 times for 68 yards, his highest total over a two-game stretch this season. He has 36 carries in the last five games, compared to 23 carries over the first seven games.
"We want Bernard to be a complement to Ray – a very good complement," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "They have different running styles. We think that helps us."
Pierce has carried 59 times for 247 yards (4.2 yards per carry average) and one touchdown on the season. By comparison, Williams finished last season with 108 carries for 444 yards (2.5 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.
At 6-foot-0, 218 pounds, Pierce is much bigger than Rice (5-8, 212). He's a strong back with the ability to run between the tackles, and is also a nice fit in the Ravens stretch-zone running attack.
Pierce showed off his power and versatility on a couple of occasions in Sunday's game against Pittsburgh, specifically when he made a third-down catch short of the first-down marker but was able to shrug off a tackler to pick up the first.
The Ravens have shown their confidence in Pierce by using him in some recent clutch late-game situations. He was the only running back to carry the ball against the Steelers in the fourth quarter and the Ravens also used him in a fourth-and-short situation in the second half against the San Diego Chargers.
"To me, it's important to use both of them," Harbaugh said. "We have confidence in both of them in all situations."
While Pierce's game action has increased recently, Harbaugh made it clear that Rice is still clearly the Ravens' featured back.
"Ray is our running back – just to be sure. He is our guy," Harbaugh said. "Ray's the guy that we want to have the ball. He's the one who's going to have the most carries.
"We want to play our good guys, and we have two good backs. But, Ray's our guy; he's our workhorse. We want to get him the ball as many ways as we can, as often as we can, but there are other guys, too. There's only one ball."