Will The Steelers Use The Backs In The Passing Game Even More In 2013?

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Isaac Redman was asked in a recent Q & A session with fans on steelers.com if he thinks the offense will use the backs more in the passing game in 2013 and here is what he had to say.

“I can’t say what we should do as far as the offense, but we have implemented the running backs into the passing game a lot more under Coach (Todd) Haley,” said Redman.

Redman is indeed right as last year the running backs and fullbacks were targeted on 19.5% of all pass attempts, and that was the highest percentage for a Steelers offense dating back to 2003 when Tommy Maddox was the quarterback.

The Steelers running backs and fullbacks also combined to tally 640 receiving yards in 2012, which was 16% of all receiving yardage gained. I researched all the way back to 2002, and that was the highest percentage during that span.

So just how much will the Steelers use the backs in the passing game in 2013? We don\’t know for sure, but one of the reasons that running back Le\’Veon Bell was selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft was because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. In his three seasons at Michigan State Bell registered 78 catches for 531 yards with 67 of those catches coming in the last two seasons.

In addition to Bell and the other running backs currently on the Steelers roster, fullback Will Johnson showed in his first season with the team that he too is a receiving threat as he totaled 15 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown in 2012. Because of that, I suspect he will get a few more balls thrown his way in 2013.

Knowing what we know right now, I would say that it is safe to say that the Steelers backs will be targeted on average at least 6.5 times a game in 2013, which would match 2012. That number could of course go higher depending on how long it takes for Bell to win the starting job.


  • dgh57

    If I remember right Colbert said in his post draft speech that Bell had “soft hands” and that MSU even used him as a punt returner a few times! That’s why a lot of times a WR is used as a PR is because of their good hands! So I can see Bell getting plenty of chances in the passing game. Then when you add in LaRod S. Howling and Will Johnson in there it will be hard NOT to see the RBs playing a bigger part in the passing game!

  • alex

    yes please…in 2013 we need to see the ‘deception by RB’ of Haleys offense…variety in the run/player packages, chip and a pass out in the flat, movement, screens, etc

  • Bob Loblaw

    Part of it will be decided by how much Ben ignores the dump off. It’s easy to play arm chair quarterback but there’s a lot of times he’ll ignore the dump off, even when they’ve got a nice cushion. Sure, some of the time this results in a long completion to a receiver, but opposing defensive backs don’t have as much to worry about when we don’t utilize those dump offs.

  • Nolrog

    It makes sense to involve the RBs more, considering the loss of Wallace, Heath’s injury and to try to pull up the LBs a bit to open the middle of the field more.

  • charles

    I don’t really know, but my feeling is that Ben does not like to dump off. If he had a gripe w Haley’s offense, I think it is here. The dump off can be a valuable weapon as the next comment notes. I really hope that Ben evolves from sandlot mentality and starts to use more finesse in his passing attack. That is not to say that I don’t love it when he goes long.

  • Pete

    Redman had a game last season with over 100 yds receiving. I’d say all the backs present can catch well and are suited to the offense Haley has put in place. Should be interesting to see how this shapes up this season.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    If the RBs are more involved I think it says more about the state of our WRs and TEs than it does about our RBs ability to be more a part of the receiving game.

  • steeltown

    Most definitely

  • steeltown

    Indeed.. its a no brainer, if Haley can get the receiving production he did out of Redman and Dwyer in ’12 then its stands to reason that Bell and Howling will really flourish in his offense. I’ve been wanting more RB screens in recent yrs, but I think due to our OLine scheme and OLinemen being big bruisers (Starks, Colon, Kemo) less nimble in open space they steered away from the RB screen. That should change this season

  • StrengthOfVictory

    I respectfully disagree. If you have a resource on offense, you use it. The current age of the receiving TE is a perfect example. They’re everywhere now, and defenses have to account for them that much more. If a guy like Bell is a threat to run, block, AND catch? And I mean a consistent threat in all phases? He’ll require that much more defensive consideration, which will only HELP our receivers and TE’s.

    Getting the RB’s involved in the receiving game isn’t a last-ditch effort to make something happen. It’s just one more dimension…one more available weapon to make big plays with.

  • Colonel Kurtz

    Shoulda Grabbed Timmy Tebow. Bellichick knows what he’s doing, and, with recent events…………..

  • charles

    We can still grab jerrod Johnson, Seattle let him go.

  • disqus_wdLdx4W76r

    Need to be used more in the Red Zone