Pittsburgh Steelers running back Baron Batch has denied the report this morning by Ed Bouchette stating that he hasn\’t been cleared to practice as he looks to return from his torn ACL suffered late in training camp last year. Batch stated that he is not working in the camp session this weekend with the rookies and the other first year players signed this offseason because he is not required to.
When you look at the running back numbers currently on the roster, you wonder if another running back, one with more experience, could possibly be added into the mix prior to the start of training camp. There are two things that we currently know as we sit here in early May in regard to the running back position with the first being that Rashard Mendenhall will open training camp on the PUP list as he too is recovering from a torn ACL suffered during the regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns. The second thing that we know is that Isaac Redman is a lock to make the 53 man roster and will be the week one starter should Mendenhall start the season on the PUP list.
Currently behind both Mendenhall and Redman sit Batch, Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay and fifth round draft pick Chris Rainey, with only Dwyer and Clay having very limited regular season snaps of that group. Chad Spann was thought to be a player that would be on the roster by the time training camp opened, but he was released this past week. The release of Spann leaves the Steelers with just five running backs on the roster that presumably will be healthy enough to participate in camp once it is open. Dwyer ended the 2011 season on the injured reserve list with a broken foot, but he is reportedly back running again and there is no reason to believe he will not be ready by the time camp rolls around.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said during the Steelers post draft press conference that the team is still open to working free agency moving forward, and while he did not specifically single out the running back position in his remarks, he did say, “I don\’t think we\’ve laid any of these positional things to bed. What we seek of course is competition.”
While the bulk of the free agency signings around the league now passed around the, a few running backs with experience still remain unsigned. The most notable names that could likely fit in as camp competition at this point are Jackie Battle, Joseph Addai, Ronnie Brown, Justin Forsett, Ryan Grant, Thomas Jones and Jerious Norwood to name just a few. Mewelde Moore also remains out of work right now as well. If another back with experience is indeed signed, it would likely be to a one-year deal for the minimum with no guarantees attached.
The Steelers could of course just decide to add a few more undrafted types that did not latch on after the draft, or they very well could be completely comfortable opening camp with just the five healthy players already on the roster. We shall see how this plays out.