FOXBORO, Mass. — Dion Lewis’ mantra is: “I’m small, but I’m not little.”
The same would apply to the running back Lewis was compared to Wednesday: former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice.
“It’s hard to say who (Lewis) reminds me of, because I think he’s successful in so many different ways,” Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward said in a conference call with New England reporters. “He’s got a little bit of Ray Rice in him, in that he may be small in stature but plays very big in his role. … I think Dion Lewis, he’s an every-down back, and he’s showing it.”
Lewis, who is listed at 5-foot-8, 195 pounds, appreciated the comparison but noted the 5-8, 206-pound Rice was a different type of runner.
“Ray Rice was a great player,” said Lewis, whose New England Patriots will visit Heyward’s Steelers this Sunday. “He’s definitely a lot different than me as a player, a lot bigger — probably about 20 pounds heavier than me.
“But he was definitely somebody I looked up to, watching when he was at Rutgers and when he was in the league with the Ravens, having those big years and rushed for 1,300 yards and stuff. He’s definitely a great player and definitely a player I’ve always looked towards.”
A change-of-pace back for most of his career, Lewis has become much more than that for New England this season, leading the Patriots in rushing in each of the past nine games while splitting carries with Rex Burkhead and, to a lesser extent, pass-catching specialist James White.
Lewis might never post Rice-like numbers in the Patriots’ multi-faceted offense — the three-time Pro Bowl pick surpassed 1,100 yards in four consecutive seasons from 2009 to 2012 — but he’s running the ball better than ever of late.
Lewis rushed for a career-high 112 yards in a Week 12 win over the Miami Dolphins and followed it up with a 92-yard effort against the Buffalo Bills before logging just five carries for 17 yards in a rematch with the Dolphins on Monday night.
“I definitely don’t feel small when I’m on the field,” he said. “I feel big when I’m out there. That’s just the way I’ve always been. I’ve always been the smallest guy on the field, so I’m used to it. But when I’m on the field, I don’t feel small at all.”
Pittsburgh ranks ninth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (102.9) but 25th in yards allowed per carry (4.3).
Thumbnail photo via Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports Images