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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?”

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