The Return On Isaiah Pead

By Jeremy Hritz

The Pittsburgh Steelers could possibly be interested in University of Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead as was reported on Steelers Depot on Saturday. Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer indicated through Twitter that Pead had received “strong interest” from the Steelers. With the injury to Rashard Mendenhall and the unproven nature of the other Steelers’ running backs outside of Isaac Redman, it is possible that Pead could be a target in this year’s draft.

At the NFL Combine this weekend, Pead measured in at 5’10 and weighed 197 pounds, which is lighter than any running back currently on the Steelers’ roster. Pead ran his 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds, recorded a vertical jump of 33 inches, and completed the three-cone drill in 6.95 seconds. He did not participate in the bench press test at the combine. While Pead’s numbers at the combine were good, they were not stellar for a running back. However, those numbers, along with his smallish stature, are not indicative of how productive he was in college and at this year’s Senior Bowl.

The 22-year-old Pead from Columbus, Ohio has always been prolific runner. During his senior year of high school at Eastmoor Academy, Pead rushed for 2204 yards and 39 touchdowns. During his four-year career at the University of Cincinnati, Pead eclipsed the 1000-yard mark twice and finished his career with 3288 rushing yards, 87 total receptions, and 33 total touchdowns. Pead achieved a 6.5-yard or better rushing average per attempt in three seasons, with his lowest still a quality 5.3 yards per carry in 2011. At Cincinnati, Pead did not have a history as a return man with only 11 total returns in his career, ten punt returns and only one kickoff return.

Surprisingly, at this year’s Senior Bowl, Pead earned Most Valuable Player honors as the result of his returning efforts. In his two punt returns, Pead gained 98 yards, the longest for 60 yards. His rushing performance was not as dominating as his return game, as he finished with 36 yards on eight carries, the longest for 18 yards. Pead also hauled in one pass.

Pead is ranked as a top-six back in this year’s draft class and is described as having fluid lateral movement and a penchant for running powerfully up the middle in spite of his size. He is also praised for his hands and ability to catch the ball in traffic. In addition to the knock on his size, several pundits have made note of some maturity issues, something that the Steelers will most certainly exhaustingly investigate to avoid incurring a distraction.

While impossible to know how a player like Pead will translate to the NFL, there is no doubt that his skill set would provide an excellent change of pace to the running of Mendenhall and Redman. With Mewelde Moore most likely not returning to the team, Pead could give the Steelers a quick and elusive third-down option not only as a runner, but also as a pass catcher out of the backfield. And while not seasoned in the return game, his performance in the Senior Bowl could be a preview of dormant capabilities.

With much uncertainty surrounding the running back position as a result of injuries and inexperience, drafting Pead in the later rounds may be an excellent move for the Steelers. It could be an investment that produces many great returns.

  • Joe D

    Steelers bring in a lot of different people… they like to get value in the 4-6 rounds also…
    The first 3 rounds tend to be easy picks perse…
    It’s the rounds after that…. that require more research and study to determine if the kid will make it out of camp and onto the practice squad at least.

    No way is the Steelers picking an RB in the 1st 3 rounds with the other needs that need to be addressed first…. OL, CB, NT.

  • ed52

    Please no. We don’t need another small RB. We need another Bettis. We’ve had our fill of guys who can’t punch it in from inside the five yard line. Queue the video of Bettis running through Urlacher in the snow.

  • Joe D

    Can you imagine if Steelers draft an NT in the 1st round…

    The Steelers front 3 will be all 1st rounders..

  • kyle

    There is not another Bettis. Large, strong running backs with exceptionally quick feet don’t come around very often. Just because you’re big and fat doesn’t mean you can handle short yardage. Jones-Drew is pretty good at it, wouldn’t you say?

  • ed52

    I know I’ve been yapping about an OL in the first round but more and more I’m liking the sound of Dontari Poe.

  • ed52

    I think MJD is an exception to the rule re: small RBs.. There are always big guys out there. You just need to find them. Peyton Hillis went in the 7th round.

  • kyle

    Ray Rice is pretty good last time I checked. Gary Russell was not big and his conversion rate for short yardage was outstanding his one year with the Steelers. Big guys are always out there. That’s true. None of them are Bettis though. If you just had to be big the Ravens would hand the ball to Ngata instead of putting him in as a lead blocker. Vision, footwork, and center of gravity are far more important in short yardage than weight or shoulder width. I don’t care if the short yardage back is 5’5 140 if he crosses the line. Redman isn’t huge, he’s decent at it. Bettis retired. There won’t be another Bettis. Just how it is.

  • Thom Kay

    I really like this guy. His combine numbers weren’t staggering, but they were comparable to LeSean McCoy’s pre-draft numbers (pro day only for McCoy). He doesn’t have track speed, but does have good acceleration and great balance. I think he’d be a pretty good 2nd round pick.

    This is a good highlight video of him:

  • ohoh

    could hope he is the new Ray Rice. I’d love to see a small guy break through the small holes and run for TD

  • ed52

    I respectfully disagree. There is another Bettis out there we just need to find him. Redman has given us a little taste of it. Clay may give us more. IMHO we certainly don’t need another small back.

  • kysteeler

    I really would like taking him in the 3rd. Provides us with a good RB receiving threat, speed, and his return skills would be a nice added bonus. I love Redman to death, but we need a change of pace back. Granted we have a lot of RBs on our roster, but 80% of them are below average.

  • kyle

    Steeler fans were spoiled by Bettis, to the extent that now we all clamor for “a big back” or “another Jerome.” He’s not out there. Who in the NFL today is comparable to Bettis? Hillis? He doesn’t have a third of the moves and he’s a slow-footed plodder. The reason John Clay didn’t get drafted, despite being a productive back for a major program, was that his 40 time confirmed what everyone had already assumed – he had feet made of stone. Don’t diminish what a special player Bettis was. His combination of size, strength, and quick feet is extremely rare. There isn’t another one like him in the NFL or in college and likely won’t be for a decade or more.

  • Steelersownage

    We need Bernard Pierce, watched this guy run at temple for the past 3 years. Dude is a beast and would be a steal in the 3rd

  • stellars

    I dont think the steelers are ready to give up on their 2011 pick baron batch. He thoroughly impressed in training camp last year before suffering an unfortunate season-ending injury. I think we’d be wise to take more shots at OL, DL, CB, etc..

  • Another small RB? Who the hell on our roster is small? Redman and especially Clay are massive and slow as shit.

    A scat back who’s a receiving threat is exactly what this team needs. You saw what Mewelde Moore did with the team in 2008 when he still had gas left in his tank.

  • ed52

    This last year we had 1st and goal at the 3 yard line against the Browns and couldn’t punch it in. I’m looking for someone who can sniff the endzone and punch it in. I’m tired of getting inside the redzone and then having to go to Suisham.

  • kyle

    You know Mendenhall outweights Pead by 30lbs right? Rashard is not a small back. He’s an above average size back with break away speed. Being big has nothing to do with success in short yardage. The Falcons were awful at it this past year and Michael Turner is big and strong. I’m not sure why you’re so adamant about this when there is no evidence to support what you’re saying.