Overcrowding Not A Concern In Steelers\’ Running Back Room

By Matthew Marczi

There has been some speculation around the football world, and more particularly within the Pittsburgh Steelers fanbase, that there will only be room for one main backup at running back. This has been suggested for a multitude of reasons, though the main reason is related to salary.

Because both Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman were retained under one year restricted free agent tenders by the team, worth $1.323 million apiece, the reasoning was that it would be senseless to pay both of them nearly $1.5 million to play 10 snaps a game, if that.

In addition, there were some reports following the selection of Le’Veon Bell in the second round back in April that the Steelers were putting Dwyer on the trading block. Of course, nothing ever came of this, and in fact the reports were never satisfactorily verified, but they helped to create the narrative that one of either Dwyer or Redman would be shown the door.

As we approach the start of training camp, however, it does not appear to be all that likely that an either or scenario is necessary. To be fair, much of this speculation came early on in the offseason, when the salary cap was a greater concern.

On the contrary, however, the Steelers now find themselves in fine shape with respect to their available salary cap. According to the latest reports, the NFLPA has the Steelers’ Rule of 51 number at $4.4 million under the cap, with all draft picks signed.

Of course, that figure does not include the last two roster spots and the practice squad; however, veterans not likely to make the final roster, such as John Parker Wilson and Brian Rolle, will help minimize its impact on the salary cap.

Given that the Steelers like to carry a couple million into the season, it stands to reason that the team actually has a couple million to play around with, should they want or need to That potentially could include an extension or two for players such as Emmanuel Sanders, Maurkice Pouncey, Ziggy Hood, Jason Worilds, or even Ryan Clark and Brett Keisel.

Barring the unlikely scenario that the Steelers want to do so many extensions that they feel that they need the extra $800,000 or so that they could get from cutting one of their running backs, it doesn’t seem that financial issues would play much of a role in shaping the team’s running back room this season.

What could be a factor, however, is motivation. There have been reports that Dwyer, for instance, had shown up once again out of shape to OTAs, so he will need to turn it around in training camp. While he may not be cut for his $1.323 million salary, he could still very well eat his way off the team. Or, he could come in motivated and be the starter the first week of the season.

There have also been suggestions that undrafted free agent rookie Curtis McNeal could have a shot to make the team, which could influence whether or not the Steelers would want to keep both Dwyer and Redman. In fact, it would be almost a certainty that one would be released in the event that McNeal made the final roster.

However, considering the coaches’ statements that even Bell would not start unless he can show adequacy in pass protection, it does not seem all that plausible that McNeal could make the team in front of Dwyer, Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling, and Baron Batch. He looks much more like a practice squad candidate at his point. If there is a roster battle amongst the backs, it is between Stephens-Howling and Batch.

Despite some of the harsh comments pertaining to the talent in the running back room made by the team’s leadership this offseason, I believe that they do understand the value that both Redman and Dwyer possess, and given that finances are not an immediate concern—and the fact that one of the two may very well be the starter week one—I see the team being able to find room for both in 2013. Expect one of the two, however, to be gone for 2014.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    Finally someone with some sensibility! There’s no way the Steelers cut either Dwyer or Redman this year, and especially not for financial reasons.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I am glad someone feels the way I do about our HB’s. I also have a feeling McNeil has a chance at making this roster but I feel we will keep more HB’s. I maybe off but I think 5 HB will be on the roster. Bell, Dwyer, Redman, Howling and McNeil. If indeed Dwyer came to camp out of shape he will have disappointed me since I have been a strong advocate of the young man. Get your act together DUDE!!!

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I 2nd that!

  • SteelersDepot

    I will be floored if McNeal makes the 53 man roster.

  • cencalsteeler

    I personally am hoping McNeal makes the team. Elusive, great vision, great cut back skills and can catch out of the back field and not a lot of wear on the tires either.

  • charles

    Maybe training camp and preseason can offer up a few good surprises.
    Hopefully I won’t get blasted for this,…does anybody else out there think that we could be a little slow offensively by the time all the final cuts are in place. Will teams dare us to beat them long and play both safeties close to the line of scrimmage?

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    I think there is a good chance that both Redman and Dwyer make the roster, but if there are a lot of injuries in camp and in the preseason, that could make one of them vulnerable. In addition to the 2 spots to go from 51 to 53, Spence will either be on IR or the PUP. Miller could start the year on the PUP, which takes you to 55 players and there are always another 1 or 2 players go on IR before the season. At 56 or 57 players, the Steelers start to get close to the cap again. In that scenario, 1 of them could be cut at the end of camp and brought back for less money after they cleared waivers.

  • dgh57

    At best I can see McNeal making the roster but it’ll be at the expense of Batch. At worst he makes the PS. I’m fine with either way. McNeal seems to be a good fit for this new ZBS but Batch may be also. Could be all that has held Batch back was his running behind our Power Scheme which doesn’t fit him. Preseason will answer that.

  • dgh57

    I hope teams do dare us to beat them long! Brown and Wheaton while not as fast as Wallace was still are no slouches when it comes to the speed game. I feel both can stretch the field if needed because they are going to have to, they’re all we got.

  • charles

    Maybe Dunn can be the good news out of training camp

  • alex

    is it just me who thinks we could use all the cap $$$ we can get for Worilds, Pouncey or Sanders contracts…? maybe a farwell extra year for Keisel or Clark?

    plus, 2014 means another year of the Khan extension shell game with Ben + $4M, Woodley + $4.5M, Timmons + $6M, and Brown + $5M over there 2013 contracts…thats a $21M shell game again!!!

  • cencalsteeler



    I’m not convinced they will keep both Dwyer & Redman because neither are great ST players. 4 RBs, 1 FB I think are locks to make the final cut…if they keep 5 RBs, maybe.

  • dgh57

    One would think Dunn will get his opportunities in the KR game because that’s his specialty. Beyond that he will have to show something as a WR/PR to make the team. He went undrafted because he didn’t excel at WR/PR in College so I don’t see him doing that at the next level up. That doesn’t mean that with the right coaching he can’t learn the position(s). So I can see him on the PS his 1st season so he can hone his skills and we can see what we got.

  • Brendon Glad

    I’m quite positive on the running back position. Johnson impressed the heck out of me at FB…and the guys I liked the least (Mendenhall and Batch) are gone. Add Bell, see what some of the UFA-rookies do…and I’m good there. Make a hole and they will run through it. Don’t make a hole and they will break tackles. Breakaway speed, maybe not…but I’m very content with our standing at RB. Glad they have Dwyer and Redman both back. I like both of them quite a bit.

  • steeltown

    Yes siirrr.. I don’t understand the cut Dwyer or Redman talk which arises purely because we are paying them $1.3MIL tenders… so what, we are paying Cotchery approx $1.5MIL and he could very well be the #4 WR by seasons end and yet I’m still happy to have him on roster even for that money, just like Im happy to have Redman AND Dwyer for pretty reasonable restricted tender amounts.
    Le’Veon has not shown anything yet and we have seen RB’s go down with injury. Being that we have $4.4MIL in cap space, I don’t see why they wouldn’t keep them both in ’13…. obviously 2014 will be a different story

  • steeltown

    I see McNeal to the PS.. and I think Batch gets beat out by Stephens-Howling for the ‘change of pace’ back

  • steeltown

    Brown, Sanders and Wheaton could be close to the fastest WR trios in the League

  • steeltown

    I think Ben will be given an extension next offseason, which will give them more salary cap flexibility, same could be said for Miller and also Ike Taylors rather large contract is ending.. 2014 might be a little tight, but the worst yrs are behind us regarding restructuring. I think its been projected we’ll probably only be $10-12MIL over cap next offseason, instead of $30MIL like in recent yrs…one or two restructurings (Timmons and Brown) and a contract extension for Ben should more than rectify that


    I’m not content…yet.

    One area I disagree with from your post…”don’t make a hole and they break…”.

    On occassion, but in short yardage/red zone situations I didn’t see that much.

    Yes, both are solid down hill runners who can do damage once they get to the 2nd level of the DEF. From my limited experience…watching HOU and DEN, the zone blocking scheme requires a good cut back runner who can explode off the cut up field like Foster.

    We’ll have to see…Dwyer has feature back potential. They may not be actively trying to trade him, but if a teams calls, I think they will move him and go with Redman as the short yardage RB, and to fill in for Bell.


    Even though cap space is tight…if they do move one or the other I agree it won’t be b/c of money.

    You said the key words…LeVeon hasn’t shown anything yet…as a pro…if he looks as good as they think…I don’t see enough touches for both Dwyer & Redman. I’d like a feature RB, a solid backup and a change of pace guy.

  • steeltown

    Agreed..but I don’t think they’ll know what they have in Le’Veon till atleast the first 2or3 regular season games are in the books. Its not even known if Le’Veon will be the starter yet..If he struggles in pass protection in camp and during preseason he wont be starting week1. If there was ever a yr to carry two guys like Redman and Dwyer its this year, as mentioned 2014 will be a different story.

    Of course, I guess if Le’Veon kills it during preseason, then they’ll consider or reconsider the need to carry both Red and Dwy


    Both guys were very cheap LY so it’s not exactly the same, but if M’hall were healthy the entire season do you think they would’ve kept both last year? I’m not sure they would’ve.

    If these were good ST guys, I think both would be locks, and they still might be if they go with 5 RBs. & 1 FB…4 RBs? I’m not sure.

    Bell…starter or not. I think they’re going to know fairly quickly in terms of his running ability, but pass protection, general grasp of the RB responsibilities will take a few games with live bullets as you said.

  • steeltown

    So you would keep B.Batch or McNeal over Dwyer /or Redman?

  • dgh57

    You are probably right but only if we keep 4 RBs on the roster.

    It depends on whether they want they’re backup change of pace back on the roster or the PS as to whether we keep a 5th backs on the roster and McNeal gives them that option. Batch has the added task of making the roster only because he doesn’t have the PS to fall back on. So it’s do or die for Mr. Batch.

  • Steeldave

    Thats how I like my wine. Red and Dwy

  • steeltown


  • blustrk

    Dwyer has shown that he is an excellent cut back runner. He has a couple of very long runs to prove it. Redman is the one back who can gain a yard after contact in the backfield which is a constant for us so far. He also has shown good pass catching ability. I wonder how each can perform on special teams. This has always been a factor for keeping someone on the squad. I hope Dunn can play with the big boys as well. Our three receivers are as fast as any. Ben if healthy should have a lot of weapons to use. I am getting more excited about us each day. Howling may have to battle Dunn and if he wins, that eliminates one complication on the roster.


    Yes…I like Redman better as a goal line short yardage back over Dwyer…so my picks if they only keep 4 RBs; Bell, Redman, Stephens-Howling, Batch or McNeal.


    idk about excellent but he’s the more talented of the two as a feature RB which is why I think there will be some interest from other teams.

    WRs..man I’m not a negative nellie, but I’m concerned about this group. Brown got a lot of mtm coverage with Wallace running the deep patterns. I don’t see that happening with Sanders on the other side…Brown will draw the DBL. Sanders is playing for a FA contract so we’ll get his best effort but I don’t know what his effort will yield.

    Excited about Wheaton, but he’s an unknown as a pro. Will Paulson be that guy in the middle of the field until Heath gets back…Will Plax carry his own weight in the RZ?

    A lot we don’t know yet about the ’13 version of the Steelers.

  • cencalsteeler

    We have talked about players who can play multiple positions add value to the team (offensive line). That is where I think McNeal comes into play. This kid averaged shy of 7 yards a carry. He also averaged 18 yards on kick returns and plays special teams. It will be interesting to see the training camp battles not only in the rb stables, but maybe between he and Dunn as well. Tomlin loves those Rainey type of players, and McNeal might just be the Rainey of 13’s draft.

  • swatter

    Could we rule out a jumbo backfield? Bell dwyer redman howling OR batch. Then for FB Watson and get Leach who Baltimore cut. He’ll be motivated and keep 4 receivers ….the old Steelers way!!!