Steelers Hope To \”Make It Rainey\” With Their 5th Round Draft Pick Out Of Florida

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin did not tell a lie when he was interviewed at the NFL owner\’s meetings that took place in late March. Tomlin said at that time that the team would likely add a running back this offseason, either via free agency or the draft. The Steelers had in a few running backs in for pre draft visits in the form of Isaiah Pead and LaMichael James, but instead chose to draft running back Chris Rainey in the fifth round this past weekend.

The Steelers brass had good insight on the diminutive back leading up to the draft as Rainey lived with the Pouncey family during his high school years. He played high school football in Lakeland, Florida with both Maurkice Pouncey and Mike Pouncey and the Pouncey family vouched for the character of Rainey, who had a threatening texting incident with an ex-girlfriend hanging over his head as a red flag.

Rainey might be short on size, but he his long on talent. During his time at Florida he just missed joining the Gators\’ “4,000-yard Club” with 3,948 all-purpose yards. That equated to an average of 75.92 yards per game as he contributed as a running back, wide receiver and kick returner. He has blazing 4.4 speed and made it known during his conference call with the media following his selection that he though he might even be faster than Mike Wallace. That is a pretty bold statement for sure, but when you watch Rainey on tape, you can see exactly why he might think just that.

One thing that Rainey will not be in the NFL is an every down running back. Instead he will be an everything else type back. Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley must be giddy right now as he thinks about all of the different ways he can “make it Rainey” on offense! When Haley was the head coach with the Kansas City Chiefs he drafted a player much in the same mold of Rainey in the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL draft in the form of Dexter McCluster. During McClusters\’ rookie season Haley lined him up all over the field and he touched the ball 39 times on offense for 280 yards in total. This included 21 receptions for 209 yards and 18 rushes for 71 yards during the regular season. He scored once on offense and 3 of his 39 touches produced explosive plays of 20 yards or more.

In 2011 McCluster received a bigger work load after starter Jamaal Charles was lost for the season early on. He touched the ball on offense 160 times in 2011 and it produced 844 yards of offense. That equates to a 5.28 yards per touch as he caught 46 passes for 328 yards to go along with 516 yards rushing on 114 carries. Let us not forget that McCluster also chipped 729 yards worth of returns his rookie season and another 622 yards on returns just last season. Since being drafted he has produced 2475 all-purpose yards on 269 touches which translates to a 9.2 yards per touch. He has played in 54 regular season games since being drafted and that breaks down to a 45.83 average yards per game contribution for the Chiefs through his first two seasons.

The sky is the limit as far as how Haley might use Rainey, assuming of course he makes the Steelers 53 man roster, but you can bet Haley will if he does. Rainey can do everything except for pass protect well, but that still will not keep him from lining up in the Steelers backfield at times. Rainey has both a running back and wide receiver mentality and is a pretty accomplished route runner. He is slippery when escaping through the offensive line on play action and he would present challenges to defenses that have to account for him when he is on the field. He is the type of player that Haley would likely try to get the ball at least 4 or 5 times a game, maybe more.

The versatility of Rainey as both a running back and wide receiver would allow the Steelers to only carry five other wide receivers on the 53 man roster this year and perhaps only three other running backs. The Steelers carried Arnaz Battle last year as a sixth wide receiver, but his only legitimate way to contribute was on special teams. The Steelers have some questions at running back this year as Rashard Mendenhall will likely start the season on the PUP list as he continues to recover from his torn ACL suffered during the season finale against the Cleveland Browns. Isaac Redman will be the primary back while Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay and Baron Batch will all fight for roster spots. The Steelers normally like to carry just three running backs on the 53 man roster and now with the addition of Rainey they could likely do just that as the Florida product would then serve as a fourth running back and a sixth wide receiver.

Should Rainey be able to win the punt return job in training camp, it would eliminate quite a deal of unneeded wear and tear on Antonio Brown. Rainey might just be able to win the kick return job in addition from Emmanuel Sanders, who was told heading into the offseason that he would likely be returning both punts and kicks in 2012. The special teams contributions with Rainey does not end with returns either as he set a school record at Florida with six career blocked punts. So if he is not returning punts, he very well could be going after them.

I know this is a lengthy post with high expectations for a Steelers fifth round draft pick, but it is easy to get excited when you think about all of the different ways he could be used if he keeps his head screwed on tight and makes the roster. Should that indeed end up happening, and I am willing to bet it does, you can bet that the Steelers will do everything in their power to get him the ball in games. Tomlin came through with his promise of adding another running back and hopefully the Sunshine State product can “Make it Rainey” on game days in 2012. No umbrellas needed, but you I suggest you bring a towel. A Terrible Towel that is.

[flv: 480 368]

  • kerror

    Marquis Maze, returner for steelers..
    An exciting One!

  • SteelersDepot

    He would have to beat out Rainey or Clemons to make the roster and I just can’t see that happening.

  • Sonny

    This kid Rainey excites me, he can do it all, and he blocks kicks too. This ain’t gonna be your grandfathers Steelers offense. His position should be “weapon”

  • stan

    I think they still have to add a “scrap heap” running back before training camp just in case Mendenhall isn’t going to be ready. If not they’ll have to count on two of Dwyer, Clay and Batch along with Rainey and that’s not good enough in the NFL.

    Grant, Hightower, Forsett, Addai, Tomlinson and Cadillac are all out there, among many others.

  • guest

    I know its not likely, but I really hope Chris Rainey and Marquis Maze both make the team. Haley would have a ton of fun lining these two guys up all over the field! It would also lead to a very explosive return game. Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, Emmanuel Sanders, Toney Clemons, & Marquis Maze would be listed as our gameday WR. We then would have Isaac Redman, Chris Rainey, & Baron Batch (yes, I believe Batch will beat out Dwyer) as our gameday RB. That would be explosive!

  • Mazeigle

    Stan, they have redman.. He has proven he can be a power runner.

  • stan

    I know. I like Redman a lot, though mainly as a backup. However, you can’t go into the season with just him. If he gets hurt then you have to go with two of Dwyer, Clay and Batch as your primary runners along with a smattering of Rainey.

  • Intropy

    I know there’s more to speed than 40 yard dash times. But it looks like Rainey would be no better than 3rd by that measure.
    Chris Rainey: 4.32
    Mike Wallace: 4.22
    Ike Taylor: 4.18

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Looking right now, I am thinking that we may be setting up a 2 deep depth chart. First, last year we carried 4 RBs not 3. Last year, we had Mendy, Redman, Moore, and Dwyer. In addition, at some point after having lost Mendy and Dwyer (and in some ways Batch) we brought in Clay and Spann. The competition for the RB spots could be pretty intense.

    My guess is we keep 2 big runners and 2 speed/change of pace runners, but I think that could change due to one factor….special teams.


    Now the thing I see above which scares me….total carries for that group. There aren’t a lot of them. I don’t mean how do we get each the ball, I mean experience…we have very, very little.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Of Note:

    Redman – 162 carries
    Dwyer – 25 carries
    Clay – 11 carries
    Batch – Zero carries
    Rainey – Zero carries
    Spann – Zero carries

    That is not an experienced group at all.

  • Eric87

    may not be experienced, but each presents a different talent that could be utilized by the offense, so I agree these guys are enough for now and it should be very interesting. Batch and Rainey are my bet for the fast scat-backs. Redman takes another spot, so the other guys gotta battle it out for 1 spot. This all assuming they do not keep some type of fullback.

  • Eric87

    Here is another question: Will the Steelers keep 4 TE’s? I like Paulson and he seems to have really good hands. Is Saunders gonna make it, or Pope?

  • Broderick Wallace

    Ike Taylor ran a faster 40 time than Mike Wallace and CJ2K!?

  • Eric87

    wow, find that hard to believe. Ike never seemed super fast to me, but he does have deceptive speed

  • Wdmason

    Ike is fast poossibly the fastest on our team.

  • Rainey has run in the low 4.2’s before. I guarantee that Rainey is the fastest player on the Steelers roster. From Rainey’s bio at UF:

    “Won an off-the-field 40-yard dash race against teammate Jeff Demps, who ran the fastest 100-meter dash in the history of high school track at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials in Oregon.”

  • PoKey21

    Love the Rainey pick. Had him in my mock draft. He will come in and return punts and kickoffs right away, or we can bring him off the end on punts. I think he could possibly work his way into a third down role this season. Its not hard to have a running back just chip an end and get the ball to him. Especially one like Rainey who can make a play afterwards.

  • PoKey21

    Also he will be a huge threat when the play break down and Ben is scrambling around. Its even better to get him the ball in open space when the Defense isnt anticipating it.

  • LouPGH

    Most of the guys you mentioned have been rode til the wheels fell off. There is a reason they’re all still available. The difference between them and the guys currently on the roster is that the latter group is on the upside of their career; not the downside. Redman is good for at least 10-15 touches per game. Throw in one of the other guys and design a few plays to go to Rainey. If we’re carrying the ball any more than that, someone should be fired because our talent at WR is – top to bottom – some of the best in the NFL.

  • LouPGH

    Isn’t that his combine time? I’d like to know the last time he ran a 4.18. I like Ike (except when he’s getting lit up by Tim Tebow), but he pretty much admitted he couldn’t run that today during an appearance on ESPN this spring.

  • SteelersDepot

    Two scouts have told me he is a 4.4 guy on their reports. Not to say he cant run faster…

  • Daveb1952

    Long strider. A very odd looking one at that. His feet hardly come of the ground. Definately not a spinter’s stride.

  • SteelSpine

    Appears Ike lost much speed, per his last game. Denver playoff game last year our own strong safety Ryan Mundy beat Ike in a foot race. Ike & Mundy were side-by-side when that receiver passed them & both started to try to catch him. Not only did the receiver continue to pull away but our safety Mundy outran Ike. One can say that was only one game, but a 212 lb backup safety should not beat a team’s “fastest starting CB.”

  • Intropy

    Taylor wasn’t invited to the combine. That was a time he ran at wide word of sports in training. I picked the fastest time I could find for each combine, pro day, whatever. Taylor is not likely still at his peak speed.

  • SteelSpine

    I thought we coulda got a fast small return-specialist on the street. There seem to be lots of small return-specialists, available because too small to play RB or WR. Steelers got one of them about 4-5 years years ago off the street who was cut from somewhere, I forget his name but he then stuck for a coupla years as a returner on the Steelers. But I wont knock getting Rainey. Small return-specialists better make long returns though or they will be cut.

    Here’s a different exciting thought: Because of all the young prospects we have to compete to be backup offensive guards next year, I’m thinking that should free up Legursky to return to blocking fullback on goal line plays, this time blocking for Redman. Redzone Redman running behind bronco Legursky on goal line plays, that is a high odds of touchdown!

  • 40 times are more an indicator of acceleration, rather than raw speed. A fast 40 doesn’t automatically mean a fast 100. Some guys can run a fast 40, but they have also hit top speed. On the other hand, as in the case of world class sprinters, some guys are still accelerating beyond 40 meters.

  • Rainey isn’t a return specialist. He a weapon in the run and pass game.

    Love the suggestion of Legursky resuming his blocking duties on short yardage situations, especially if he is running behind DeCastro.

  • LouPGH

    Yeah, I was just kidding. Although Taylor trains hard, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the drop off is less pronounced in his case than in that of other guys who have been in the league as long as he has. 4.18 is insanely fast though.

  • Wdmason

    I think you may be referring to Stefan Logan. He had the potential to break one but was also so easily pulled down. He never panned out. He was just too small. He just couldnt break a tackle to save his life the way I remember.

  • Wdmason

    Actually, in a reply to myself, Stefan Logan had one decent year and was possibly only pushed out by the emergence of Sanders and Antonio Brown. So if we get one or two good years on special teams from Rainey it may be worth the draft pick. We will wait and see.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    My thought is that we will carry 4 TE’s…Miller, Pope, Saunders, then either Paulson or Johnson till Saunders gets off his suspension then Pope will be released. Dont like Paulsn at all and think the survivor Johnson will live another year…Paulson will be put on PS IMO.

  • Dkoy85

    If you watch that play you can see Ike took a stiff arm to the head and never recovered after that.

  • Wdmason

    Ike was stiff armed, lost a step and was never able to recover.

  • Pete

    Logan is doing just fine in Detroit and is usually one of the top kick returners in the league. He had an off year last season but in 2010 he was 4th and 5th in the league in kick return yds and avg, respectively.

    He wasn’t a long term solution for the Steelers because he is only a return guy and they would consume a roster spot. Detroit and a number of other teams are comfortable doing that but the Steelers prefer to have one of their WR or RB do return duty.