Post Draft State Of The Steelers Running Backs

The 2012 draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers is a few weeks behind us now. I have already posted about the state of the offensive and defensive line positions following the draft and today we will look at the state of the running back depth chart following the draft.

Rashard Mendenhall – Mendenhall is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is likely to start the 2012 season on the PUP list as he continues to recover from a torn ACL suffered in the 2011 season finale against the Cleveland Browns. Should Mendenhall indeed start the season on the PUP list he will miss the first six games automatically. General Manager Kevin Colbert has stated that he is never comfortable with an ACL recovery until a year after the injury, but that does not mean that Mendenhall will not be able to contribute at some point during the season. A realistic return of Mendenhall to the Steelers 53 man roster is likely to be around week 11 or 12 and hopefully the rest of the running backs on the roster can carry the load until he is ready to contribute in some form or fashion.

Isaac Redman – Redman returns as an exclusive free agent and figures to be lead running back with Mendenhall likely out to start the season. Redman has improved in every facet of his game since being signed as an undrafted free agent and that includes the little things like blitz recognition and pick-up. Redman has also shown he is a reliable target out of the backfield as well in the passing game and is as violent of a runner between the tackles as any other running back in the league. He hardly ever goes down on first contact and is always fighting for the additional yardage. The jury is out on if Redman can be an every down back, but he might not be asked to be that under new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who might use a combination of backs to help lighten the load on Redman.

Jonathan Dwyer – It sure felt like more but Dwyer played less than 30 snaps on offense last year at running back in three different games. His biggest highlight last season was his 76 yard run against the Tennessee Titans in week 5 as Mendenhall was sidelined with an injury. Dwyer also saw some limited action on special teams before breaking his foot late in the week 13 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Dwyer was eventually placed on injured reserve and has since recovered from his surgery. With Mendenhall expected to be sidelined for the first part of the season, Dwyer has a golden opportunity to serve as a backup to Redman. He plans to workout down in Florida with Antonio Brown and Lawrence Timmons in July in an effort to arrive at training camp in tip-top shape. He will face a ton of competition in camp and will have to earn his roster spot by also contributing on special teams.

John Clay – Clay was activated to the 53 man roster after Dwyer went down, but like Dwyer, he also saw just under 30 snaps of playing time on offense. He scored a touchdown on his very first NFL carry against the St. Louis Rams and not too many players can say that. He is far from being a complete back and he has his work cut out for him to make the 53 man roster. In fact, he and Dwyer could likely be battling for the same roster spot on the 53 as it seems unlikely that both will make unless injuries occur. Clay runs well with the football, but is the other things related to the position that are a concern when the ball is not in his hands. He very well could be a practice squad candidate should he not make the roster.

Baron Batch – Batch was the superstar of training camp last year and it looked like he was on course to supplant Mewelde Moore as the third down, change of pace back last season based on camp reports. Unfortunately Batch tore his ACL just prior to the start of the preseason and he spent his rookie season on injured reserve rehabbing. By all accounts Batch will be ready to go again by the time training camp gets started and he must prove the knee is no longer an issue and that he can repeat the solid camp he had his rookie season. Batch is fearless and effective in blitz pickup and great in open space out of the backfield in the passing game. With Moore not currently on the roster, Batch has an opportunity to assume that role, especially if he can contribute on special teams. He should have no problem picking up the new offense of Haley and figures to get plenty of opportunities in the preseason to prove his worth. Hopefully the knee does not fail him.

Chris Rainey – The Steelers fifth round draft pick could become a Dexter McCluster type toy for Haley in 2012. Rainey is certainly not an every down back as his smallish build will not let him be a between the tackles type runner. What Rainey is however, is a play-maker and his ability to also line up in the slot and catch the ball out of the backfield will make him a hard player for defenses he faces to account for. Rainey also could be in contention to be both the punt and kickoff return man and his ability to run the route tree could give the Steelers the ability to carry just 5 wide receivers on the 53 out of training camp because of his versatility. The only thing that figures to keep Rainey from making the week one roster is Rainey himself. He could be the type of back that gets 4-7 snaps on offense a game.

Post Draft Prediction 53 Man Roster Running Backs

Rashard Mendenhall – PUP
Isaac Redman
Jonathan Dwyer
Baron Batch
Chris Rainey

  • SteelerDave

    I love the idea of Redman/Dwyer handling 90% plus of the carries and Batch and Rainey mostly running pass routes with an occasional sweep run. The O-line should be solid barring any injuries and the running backs could easily shine. I do not see Mendy coming back in time or being able to show enough when he does return to warrant a new contract beyond this season – especially if Redman does prove himself as being capable of being the kind of back who can run 20 to 25 times a games for the whole season without wearing down.

  • Jprankster2005

    I like Dwyer,Batch and Rainey…… Starter Redman for sure…I think any of these backs could be a starter…… Each of them have something differnt to bring to the table…….. I hope to see Rainey mainly Returning and lining up as a reciever…… I hope Batch can continue to do good… And Dwyer I like alot……. If Mendenhall is out for 6 week…… One of these backs will shine and I think take his place……. I hope that’s’ what happens anyways…… So to be honest will the talent we have at RB there all young but can be game breakers……. I think this is Mendenhall’s last yr…. and to be honest I wouldn’t of mind to see them release him earlier in the yr. i believe he had a roster bonus this yr. and they could of saved that money…… But i’m pretty confindent that atleast 2 of these backs will make there mark…… And be the long term back here……. I see Batch and Redman being the primiary and like I said with Rainey doing alot of other stuff……. But dwyer could easily do better than all……. But Clay don’t see him making the team at all…….

  • Jprankster2005

    I have to agree with you……. I think we got a great stable of young Rb’s that will do better and cost less……. I see either Dwyer or Redman being the long term and getting a long term deal after the season…….. rainey and Batch could easily be the same but they won’t need new contracts for 2 yrs….. Rainey I beileve 4 yrs.


    Still curious what Mendenhall could have done with an OLine that wasn’t below average.

  • Yalamar

    Lets remember that Mendenhall is still only 24, and has a few 1000 yard seasons under his belt. Not only is his youth going to help in his recovery, but also leaves him with plenty of career before the dreaded 30 year old running back death toll. While I agree he will not have a full year to prove his worth, he should get the opportuninty to get back on the field in some games. If he can show some of the explosion he had before the injury, I think it would be a mistake to write him off. The timing is unfortunate, and he will probabley not get as large of a contract as he might have, I think he will get a contract.

  • P. Serling

    It will be interesting how the RB situation will play out this year… with a new offensive coordinator, rookies on the o-line, potential injuries, Mendenhall on PUP, etc. Remember Redman is going to be turning 28 when the season kicks off, so even if he has a breakout year, it will be interesting to see if the Steelers front office will consider him a 3-4 year starter in the future, which would put him in his early 30s.

  • Reader783

    Dave, who do you think will take over as the red-zone and 4th-and-1 power back? Dwyer is 5’11”, 230; Redman is 6’0″, 230; and Batch is 5’10”, 210; so those guys are all about the same height, but Batch is a little lighter. I know that Batch was doing very well in the training camp last year and was giving James Harrison a run for his money in one-on-ones, so he definitely has the strength in him. So do you think they’ll try to get some weight on Batch to be that power back, or just stick with Redman like they did last year?

  • Nolrog

    Mendenhall will miss most if not the entire season, but the Steelers will likely tender him an original round (which would be the first of course) and no one would touch him coming off an injury so he’ll be back in 2013.

    Overall, though, I’m not so worried about the RB situation. Whoever carrys the ball will do fine behind that improved OL.

  • Nolrog


  • SteelersDepot

    Mendenhall will be a URFA and thus it is the franchise tag or nothing with him and they will not tag him.

  • SteelersDepot


  • I’m still curious what he could do if he showed heart every game, and not just occasionally.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    No question…Mendenhall has a heart problem not a bad OL or Ability problem

  • Jimmy-fowler

    Its amazing how everyone seems to be writing Clay off. I feel he is more of a complete back than Dwyer The proof will be in the playing. Im thinking he has the most upside Hes younger, will have OTA’s this year,runs square and has great feet & speed. Dwyer isnt healthy from the injury that ended his season last year.His foot could cause him a spot on the practice squad. Haley will give all the Backs opportunity to perform and excel. Camp should be great in Latrobe this year as always.

  • Chapchap2005

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m going to have to see a different J. Dwyer if I’m to feel confident about him sharing a majority of the snaps. From all that I’ve seen and heard, he’s been lazy, out of shape, and seems uninterested in making football a priority. Hopefully his new work out partners can motivate him for the upcoming season!!

  • Reader783

    I don’t think its fair to say he doesn’t have the heart. I think the problem more than anything is that he thinks too much. He always gets to the line and then hesitates. I don’t think there is any right to say he doesn’t give it his all.

  • LucasY59

    Mendenhall wont get a long contract or a expensive one so IMO I think it would be worth it to give him a chance again next year, unless any of the younger guys shows that he isnt needed.

  • NW86

    Agreed. Redman’s running style is the downhill, power back style.

  • Chris

    Great feet and speed? The dude ran a 4.84 and 4.77 in the forty! Slow as molasses