The Pittsburgh Steelers, per the norm, didn\’t sign many free agents during the offseason, but the addition of running back LaRod Stephens-Howling figures to be one that will pay a few dividends in 2013.
The University of Pittsburgh product might only be 5 foot, 7 inches and some change, but inside of that diminutive body is a ton of versatility. Stephens-Howling can run between the tackles, catch the ball out of the backfield, pass protect and return kickoffs on top of it all.
While he won\’t compete for the starting running back position in 2013, Stephens-Howling already knows how he intends to fit in the Steelers offense.
“I hope that I can bring a change a pace to this offense,” said Stephens-Howling, who was originally selected in the seventh-round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. “I see a lot of third down opportunities that Todd Haley\’s always had other places. So it\’s a great opportunity for me, and I\’m just competing to be able to help out in September.”
During his four years with the Cardinals, Stephens-Howling registered 1,185 yards of offense in 57 games while only starting 10 times at running back. While many might think that most of those yards came on third down, they actually didn\’t. In fact, only 133 of them came on third down via 25 total touches.
So how will Stephens-Howling contribute in 2013 with the Steelers should he make the team? For starters, he has to be considered the leading candidate for the kick return job until rookie undrafted free agent wide receiver Reggie Dunn proves what he can do in the preseason. On 163 kickoff returns for his career, Stephens-Howling brings a 25 yard per return average with him to Pittsburgh. While Stephens-Howling hasn\’t really been used a ton on third downs over the course of his career, it is a down that likely best fits his skill set in the offense of Todd Haley, who the running back says holds everybody accountable in practice.
“He\’s a great coach,” said Stephens-Howling. “I like the way he coaches. He holds you accountable, and that\’s a good thing in the room when guys know if you mess up, you\’re going to be told about it in front of everybody. That\’s a great atmosphere to learn and be accountable to each other”
So has Stephens-Howling been called out yet by Haley?
“No, I\’ve been doing a good job studying at home to stay out of that meeting, but it\’s been going good.”