Revisiting The February Comments Made By Kevin Colbert About The Running Game

During the 2013 NFL Combine, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was asked in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio if he was disappointed with the teams running game in 2012 and if it would be an area of priority for him during the offseason. Now, with two preseason games left to be played before the start of the regular season, I thought it would be a good time to revisit his answer.

“It is and we were disappointed,” said Colbert back in February. “And I stated in no deference to the guys that played there, but we weren\’t good enough at that position, and that falls on me. We had a lot of guys that tried to take the reigns and be the guy, but quite honestly they didn\’t do it. Again, you felt good about the position going into the season, coming out we didn\’t feel so good and that goes on me.

“We\’re going to try to upgrade and add to the running back position, because I\’m pretty sure that if you get a good runner that the offensive linemen are going to look a little bit better, and hopefully we\’re going to run the ball better.”

Colbert, as promised, did try to upgrade the running back position, as not only did he draft Michigan State running back Le\’Veon Bell in the second-round of the 2013 NFL Draft; he also signed free agent running back LaRod Stephens-Howling during it.

Dispute his attempt to upgrade, however, Colbert has now pretty much found himself right back where he started heading into the 2013 season as Bell will be sidelined several weeks with a mid-foot injury suffered Monday night in the second preseason game against the Washington Redskins. To make matters worse, Stephens-Howling is currently trying to overcome a sprained MCL that forced him to sit out the game against the Redskins.

Colbert\’s decision on Friday to trade linebacker Adrian Robinson to the Philadelphia Eagles for running back Felix Jones probably shouldn\’t come as a surprise when you closely examine what he had to say about the running game back in February. He knows that it would be foolish to expect different results this year if he was to rely on both Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer to carry the load for a second season in a row.

Assuming Stephens-Howling\’s knee injury isn\’t long-term, Colbert needs to go ahead and cut loose either Redman or Dwyer prior to the start of the season as there is no use having two running backs earning $1.323 million on the roster if he firmly believes both are only bit contributors. In addition, he should continue to monitor the waiver wire between now and the start of the regular season for yet another running back that he would consider an upgrade over what he currently has.

Should Colbert stand pat right now with what he has at running back and expect different results until Bell returns to action, a resulting unsuccessful running game will once again fall back on him. He must continue to try to upgrade the position.

  • stairman

    The RB”s are not suppose to make the Oline look better, rather the other way around. I think its somewhat unfair to Red and Dwyer to assume that. Hw good will Bell be if the Oline sucks?

  • Matt Manzo

    Any thoughts on which rbs might come through the waiver wire?

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Given Colbert’s comments, I don’t understand why he tendered even one of them, let alone both. I thought both of them could have been brought back at lower deals a la Stevenson Sylvester. I’ve said this in other posts, but I think I might roll the dice and cut them both before the season with the intent of signing 1 or both of them back at lower salaries, depending on what else is out on the market.

  • Busforever

    Year after year, those injuries are frustrating. But even without Bell and Stephens-Howling, Colbert’s words had consequences and made our RB situation a little better. Because Redman worked hard this offseason to gain speed, Dwyer worked harder and came in better shape in training camps. Colbert gave them a sense of urgency, and let them know their job isn’t for granted. To me, that’s another reason he brought Felix Jones in the house. Colbert wants new faces in the RB room, because it brings more competition.

    But I agree, I would have prefered to see a veteran lineman coming. The reality is those guys are too expensives for us. And all the guys we drafted have been injured, slowing down their progression. With injuries, questions are still here, and we still don’t know what we have at OL.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I still don’t buy that Colbert was being totally honest. I believe the team feels better about Redman, at least, than is reflected in public comments. However, they live by the motto that you are what your record says, and the backs on last year’s roster were 8-8 backs. As were the linebackers, the cornerbacks, the tight ends, the linemen, the wide receivers, the quarterback, etc. They know the injuries that they suffered through last year and how that affected the running game, but they need to cover their asses in case it still isn’t working on the ground by switching things up, even if internally they believe they can win with Redman and Dwyer and a healthy line.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Even though I sometimes disagree with the overall roster strategy and some personnel decisions, I never get the feeling they operate in a cover their ass mode, especially Colbert.

    I think his evaluation of the RBs was genuine, whether I agree with it or not. (I agree the talent was lacking, but disagree it deserved special mention vs. other roster shortcomings.) Most of it probably stems from the abomination in Cleveland, which means the Dwyer fumble on Monday probably trumped everything else he’s done through camp and the pre-season.

    Dwyer and Redman have been there for 3 years and they know what they have. They’ve both had several opportunities to seize the job and neither have. Hopefully, Bell gets back soon and upgrades the position.

  • sean mcmartin

    O-line sucks..why worry about RB’s??

  • Matthew Marczi

    With Rashard Mendenhall in front of them, they never had an opportunity to seize anything until last year, and as I already mentioned, they both were set back by injuries. The Steelers should be able to have more than enough success on the ground with either Redman or Dwyer as the starter as long as they and the offensive line are healthy, as attested by that 3-game stretch last year.

    All front offices operate in cover your ass mode but say they don’t publicly. And you know they don’t always say what they actually think. I’m pretty sure just about everybody, from Colbert, to Tomlin, to Art Rooney II, has mentioned injuries as a factor in how the team performed last year, knowing that it’s the truth, yet they can’t use it as an excuse, and they know people would be whining if they came into this season with the same backfield as last year, even if that same personnel is capable of much better than what they showed last year.

  • TxSteeler

    I agree, they do feel better about Redman than they did last year. They know he’s committed and gives 110% every play but I don’t agree they believe they can get it done with Red and Dwyer alone. They’ve put everything they have into upgrading the running game piece by piece by drafting first and second round lineman plus one of the top rated backs in the country and a great FA pickup of LSH not to mention a new blocking scheme. They want a running game, period. They have the parts. Now they just have to mold them into an offensive machine. This team just lacks an identity because they are so young but it will come, maybe mid season or the end of the season, but they will establish one I guarantee it. By the way, I’ve been a STEELERS fanatic since 1972 and visited many Steelers fan sites and I must say this is the best I’ve come across. Great reporting and commentary by all!

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Mendenhall left plenty of open doors for those guys.

    Of course, for most things management says or leaks, we have to guess at what is misinformation vs. what they actually think. Maybe I’m wrong, but I still think they are far less reactive to the whining of the fans than most organizations. I think they are fully capable when it comes to deception and misinformation. Colbert singled out the RBs, not the fans. In fact, I think although most fans throughout the offseason listed OL as their #1 concern and they neglected to bring any help there. Hopefully, he is right.

  • DoctorNoah

    I’m a little skeptical of this, Dave. I think all of the backs have shown fairly equivalent flashes during the preseason, excepting Batch, and that if you took either Redman’s or Dwyer’s stat line from last year and extrapolated it out to 16 games for a single RB, it’s not a terrible looking number. A leaner Redman and healthy Dwyer would be decent feature back material for a lot of teams.

    In my mind, the biggest change in the running game made by Colbert was the hiring of a new O line coach. The front office knows it starts there, and you’ve said as much multiple times. Felix Jones is an ironic add: drafted one spot after Mendy, a feature back with one good season plagued ever after by injury and bad luck. If you look at the basic stats and extrapolate out, you don’t see too much difference between Redman, Dwyer, Mendy, Felix Jones or Ray Rice. Their average yards per carry is within a foot and a half of each other basically.

    I still think Jones is insurance and there’s no reason to cut either Redman or Dwyer. And certainly no reason to be anything but optimistic. Tonight’s game is hopefully where the O-line starts to gel and the play calling starts to become less one dimensional as well. Both will strengthen the run. I’m not worried

  • Hutch

    what kind of chance will there be of a decent RB coming free for the Steelers to get?

  • Hutch

    I don’t care what shape a running back is in. Or how good he can run. If he can’t be depended on to run without fumbling, let him go.

  • Brendon Glad

    i don’t understand how money keeps being brought up with regards to those 2 players (Redman and Dwyer). You’ve said the Steelers are safely under the cap for 2013. Both players are on 1 year contracts.
    Therefore, who makes the squad at RB should be 100% about who the best players are. The money talk only should matter when a team is over the cap or dangerously close. Or if they have long term contracts which are proving to be a pain in the butt. Or if the person speaking of it is a part owner of the team. At least in my opinion. Did i miss something? Are they hamstringing us from getting another guy off the waiver-wire? Maybe they are closer to the cap than I remember.

  • Brendon Glad

    I guess another definite reason would be if someone is due a big raise via extension. That was a big oversight on my part. Yet, still…I’m not seeing that one either right now. I would imagine that the extensions being spoken of should be right around what they made, or less. Right? Ben’s will be the big one…(thanks to Jerry Jones and Arthur Blank). And I think they are waiting to do that one. So I’m still not seeing how it would matter what those 2 are making.

  • jonathan

    Hey Dave,
    I have to tell you its great to listen to you in my car going to work on steelers nation radio. As far as i am concerned you are the go to guy when it comes to what really is going on with the steelers. Thanks. I think I am in love with Dave Dameshek. He is so funny, Yet so gay.

  • george

    I have been waiting 3 drafts now for the Steelers to draft a Rice type RB, Short ,powerful, one cut runner, hard to see behind the OL.
    For Some reason the Steelers seem to avoid drafting or hanging on to this type RB. Wonder why?
    Exited about Howling , hope the Bell pick works, Liked Bernard better, who I believe is a Bengal now.

    OL needs to provide running lanes every game , not just some games.
    Redman / Dwyer; Neither one excites me. Always had a soft spot for Redman. But when Redman has been in in the past. He gets sent up the middle a lot and rarely seems to have room to run.
    Dwyer is faster and seems to get around the end better. Though Dwyer doesn’t seem to be a good open field runner. Doesn’t seem to be able to set up blocks downfield and seems indecisive when making cuts. Just isn’t fun to watch, especially on replay.

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    The packers just named a rb their starter that was cut by the Steelers last year and claimed by the packers, The young guy was given a chance by the packers during the season and won the job this year. TO acquire and retain talent, someone on the staff has to be able to judge talent, so what is the problem with our rb coaches.??

  • george

    Ya, I know.
    D. Harris, yet again another Rice type RB. That the Steelers didn’t keep

  • alex

    two words, emmanuel sanders!

  • alex

    oops, there is depth at WR, but Cortez has nobody behind him and he is far too valuable not to sign right now!

    but sanders underneath without Heath available could be explosive…

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Colbert brought this upon himself. We COULD let both Dwyer and Redman go and hope to sign them both at cheaper price but problem is: teams KNOW what both are capable of and likely will sign to salaries. We are in the position where we have to keep both Dwyer and Redman, Colbert mismanaged this as whole, should never had lit the match. There is a saying, “don’t mess with the person who serve you your dinner”.

    Where he could have been a bigger man and acknowledged that we just had a bad season, it happens. No, but no he didn’t do that, instead he pointed the finger at running back instead of the playcallings, injuries, even O-linemen. The sad fact about our team is that we now are, well, inconsistent. That’s on whole team, not just RB corp. I am hoping for the best and that we will get what we all expect from our running backs but I am not counting on it. The team live and bleed with Big Ben and that’s fact we go far as Big Ben carry us.

    He addressed the needs but he didn’t addressed the fits. That’s all.

  • Max Maxarater

    WOW! Pretty strong admonition to Colbert! “He should continue to try to upgrade . . ” What? Is someone expecting him to not try . . . .

  • Brendon Glad

    Hey, maybe you are right (when it’s being added in with Clark and others’ extensions which may be being discussed. …but I don’t feel like extensions for either of them that could be being negotiated would jeopardize the 2013 cap as Dave Bryan has portrayed it, if my memory serves me correctly.
    Didn’t he have us as 2-5 million under? Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what I remember him reporting.

  • Kevin Artis

    In my opinion I think we should keep both Dwyer and Redman at least for this year. Or cut one and resign one for cheaper. But he probably would clear waivers before someone picks that person up.

  • Brendon Glad

    I’ve always liked guys like Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis.
    Both were HOF worthy in their ability to “get-small” and “break arm-tackles”. In Steelers Nation, we have grown accustomed to VERY TINY holes.
    So I, for one, like that Dwyer and Redman can break tackles quite effectively. I am a “non-believer” in the Steelers OL, so I feel like “tackle-breakers” are my best-option to hope for as a fan. I like that they lose yardage less when the OL fails. So I see Redman/Dwyer as poor-man’s versions of Harris and Bettis. (Just HOW poor of versions they are can be debated.)
    However, it should be noted that Bettis never won a SB as a starting RB for the Steelers. Yet Willie Parker won 2 as a starter. So it’s really tough for me to absorb, as a fan.
    I THINK I like Dwyer and Redman…I can only HOPE for Bell and LSH…but in my adult-life, the only 4 times that they have made the SB…2X it was Willie Parker, (the ones they won), one time it was Erric Peagram, and one time it was Rashard Mendenhall.
    Those guys are quite different in several ways…but they DO bear a resemblance more to LSH and Bell, than they do with Dwyer and Redman.
    So I think, through my typing, I’ve managed to talk myself out of liking Dwyer and Redman a lot more than when I started typing.
    It’s a conundrum.