Pittsburgh\’s Running Back Situation May Need Revisiting

By Christina Rivers

Last week, I posted an article about Rashard Mendenhall\’s unfortunate position within the Pittsburgh Steelers organization that took quite a bit of heat.  While pointing out that Mendenhall was sometimes viewed by fans as not having the team\’s best interests at heart and the fact that he\’d been criticized for public comments, I also pointed out the obvious; Mendenhall will sit on the PUP list for all or most of the 2012 season.  Mendenhall will be an unrestricted free agent following the 2012 season, and Steelers Depot writer Dave Bryan even suggested that Mendenhall may “want to test the free agency waters.”  With Mendenhall in a questionable situation, the running back position may need to be revisited by the Steelers.

Ed Bouchette asked this question: “Do the Steelers need a running back?”

It\’s difficult to say at this point in time.  Kevin Colbert insists that the Steelers aren\’t in the market for a running back more than any other position, but that doesn\’t mean the team isn\’t considering it.  Even if Mendenhall were able to return to the field in the later part of the 2012 season, knee injuries to running backs often keep them from having the same abilities they had prior to that injury.  A running back\’s knees take a beating and without burst power, getting through the offensive line is difficult.

While Colbert appears to feel that Issac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and second-year players John Clay and Baron Batch will be the force behind the Steelers\’ running game, there are some legitimate questions regarding their performance.  Batch is just coming off of an ACL surgery after being injured during training camp in 2011.  Redman had good numbers during the 2011 season, and the team should feel great about his 121-yard performance against Denver in the Steelers\’ playoff loss.  With one start out of 16 games played, Redman had 110 rushing attempts for 479 yards on the season.  His yard-per-carry average was 4.4 with three touchdowns.  He went 18/78 receiving.  The uncertainty lies in whether Redman is ready to carry the full workload as the starter.  Another underlying question is whether Redman can hang onto the ball with consistency.

Dwyer, Clay and Batch are all promising backs.  The intangible here is that between the three players, they have only carried the ball 35 times while in the National Football League.  That raises concerns over who would take Redman\’s spot if he were to go down with an injury similar to Mendenhall\’s.

Due to the limitations of the salary cap, the Steelers won\’t be able to afford signing a high-dollar veteran free agent and may have to find a stable backup off the market while they develop the younger backs behind Redman.  The ugly truth is that while Colbert hints that the organization is not concerned about the running backs situation, depth at the position isn\’t tried and true.

Notice that Mewelde Moore\’s name hasn\’t been thrown into the mix.  Moore is a free agent this year and several sources within the NFL are suggesting he will find a new home for the 2012 season.  While Moore was often a good third-down back, even he saw less and less time on the field during the 2011 season behind Redman.

Redman and Dwyer become restricted free agents after the 2012 season, which throws yet another wrench in the system.  Bouchette went so far as to ask about the current offensive backs corps, “Would you feel comfortable with that group if Mendenhall cannot play, or should the Steelers find another running back?  And, at what price — first-round pick? Second? Third?

My question is:  “Do you think that the Steelers need some help at the position considering the intangibles?”

About the Author

Christina L. Rivers

Born in 1972, Christina L. Rivers follows in her maternal Grandmother’s shoes as a writer. Christina is currently a journalist for Examiner.com, and writes for several blogs. She has recently been added as a writer for SteelersDepot and ‘The Beam’ in Pittsburgh. Christina’s favorite Steelers players of all-time are Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley. She is active on Twitter @3Rivers_Writer. Christina also enjoys collecting NFL cards, and has over 5,000 individual Steelers cards, some as old as the late 1950s.

  • don’t sleep on @cspann30

  • Grw1960

    I do beleive the Steelers will pick a RB in the 2012 draft. Probably in the last 4 rounds.
    I expect an OL player by the end of round 2.
    But if RB is BPA in rounds 2 or 3. I would be only mildly surprised.

  • Ron Jammes

    They will have to draft a RB rounds 3-6

  • Kenneth Wilt

    If you are going to bring in a running back, it cannot be a draft pick. We have a bunch of those promising guys on the roster already. It needs to be a vet, much like Moore is a vet, but a different kind of vet. More of a guy who is like Redman…more of a banger.

  • I think the Steelers have been operating under the assumption that Rashard would be leaving as a free agent next year either way and that’s why we have 4 young backs on the roster. I expect we draft another if they see an especially good value but the guys we have now are good enough to open the season with. I would probably cut him before his contract was guaranteed but would wait until the last minute to see if he is way ahead of schedule.

    I thought you commenting about his tweets was really lame. I’m a fan of free speech and people brave enough to speak out with an unpopular decision. I don’t like people to enforce mob rule by insulting people who think differently. Especially when granted a platform.

  • Tanner

    Why not and try to get Brandon Jacobs. Sign him to a 3yr 9mil contract

  • Joe D

    RB’s are a dime a dozen with a short shelf life..
    Just run the wheels off them… then draft another..
    I’m sure Steelers will draft an RB in the later rounds… After landing an OL, CB, DT, ILB…

  • Dale Miller

    Interesting stats: In the regular season, Moore led the league on yards per carry by RBs with over 20 carries. Dwyer led on yards per carry by RBs with over 15. I don’t know that this means anything, but I was awfully surprised when I saw it.

  • Freddy Fuller

    Fullback ?

  • Teddy

    Today’s math lesson: 100 attempts for 479 yards is a 4.79 yard average, not 4.4

  • Eric87

    Besides a stud fb, why should the steelers have a need at rb. Gotta give the young guys a shot. Redman has proven his worth, Dwyer has shown flashes, John Clay seems to be a bruiser, and Baron batch is a fast scat back. I see pretty much every style of running back we need minus mendy of course, all good

  • I tend to lean your direction TarheelFlyer. We have the draftees to work with…let’s get a vet that adds stability.

  • Teddy, algebra problem:

    100 attempts = x 479 yards = y.
    y / x = z
    It should be 4.79 yards, but unfortunately, you didn’t figure in negative yards, but the NFL does.

    Thanks for keeping us honest though.

  • Does David Johnson filling in at fullback take away from his job at TE? My devil’s advocate question for the day.

  • And I believe that if they were given more experience and an opportunity, those numbers could easily go up in 2012. Thanks Dale!

  • Emac2, I appreciate your comments. In fact, I supported Rashard Mendenhall’s right to free speech. It doesn’t mean that he didn’t say what he said. As a journalist, we rely on our right to express speech. Here is a link to an article I wrote on Examiner.com regarding this very topic:


    My comment about Mendenhall:
    “A painful lesson is that sometimes, even when you have a right to your opinion, it takes maturity and tact to know when the right time to share those opinions are. Is Mendenhall entitled to his feelings? Sure. All of us are. Were Americans horrified over 9/11? I can honestly say I do not know any who weren’t. Am I glad that Bin Laden was caught? Yes, I am. I am not going to rush into the streets, however, and throw a party. Why? Because there are other people I am considering as well. I think Seal Team Six were heroic in bringing him to justice (and some people would disagree that death is not justice, etc)…but I can’t say with an honest tongue that I enjoy death, dying, fighting, or killing. All I can say is that in the end, we’ll all likely get what is coming to us…and I HOPE what I get is good.”


    In fact, when I spoke to Rashard via Twitter, I told him to keep his chin up and that I supported his vocalization, even if I didn’t agree that the timing was great. But the timing was what it was — the same time people were running around doing what they wanted to do about the issue as well.

    I have been very supportive publicly for Steelers players who voice personal opinions that others may not like. As a journalist – I get a lot of people telling me they don’t like mine. That is what I love about our country — we get a say, and we have the right to agree to disagree.

    Thank you!

  • In my opinion- I say let the 3 guys play it out and see who comes out on top and if it proves to be ineffective then start looking or keep in the back of their minds who they would want as a veteran. Give them some more playing time and let them speak for themselves as to what they can really do for the team before ruling them out. Give them that big opportunity to fulfill what the team needs for them and work hard with them to be the team players they are looking for…then if NOT seek elsewhere….but gotta give them that chance since they are already there..