Player: LaRod Stephens-Howling
Position: Running Back
Experience: 5 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2013 Salary Cap Hit: $620,000
2013 Season Breakdown: Many are quick to point out that the loss of Maurkice Pouncey in the first week of the season forced the Pittsburgh Steelers to rethink what they were going to do on the offensive side of the ball, which is true.
I would argue that the loss of LaRod Stephens-Howling, who was also lost due to an ACL tear in the first game of the season, also contributed to that divergence from strategy, though not to the same degree.
Stephens-Howling is the type of hybrid skill position player that offensive coordinator Todd Haley covets, because it gives him the option to do a variety of things in all different types of scenarios. It’s what he had in Dexter McCluster while he was the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.
It’s what he was hoping to get when the Steelers drafted Chris Rainey in the fifth round in his first season as offensive coordinator. And that’s, of course, why Stephens-Howling was signed as a free agent.
He impressed during the preseason, showing that he can run to the outside or between the tackles, but he was already bothered by knee trouble then, and so was limited. The ACL injury changed a lot.
Stephens-Howling was the kick returner. Instead, the Steelers were forced to rely on Felix Jones, who turned in a very pedestrian job. Stephens-Howling likely also would have taken the majority of Jones’ third-down and two-minute snaps and done a better job with it.
Now with the knee injury, we may never know what the offense would have looked like with a dynamic complementary piece like him in it.
Free Agency Outlook: There already wasn’t much of a market for Stephens-Howling when the Steelers signed him to a veteran-minimum contract last year. Coming off a serious knee injury, he may struggle to draw much attention from any team.
Could the Steelers bring him back in 2014 and try it again? Possibly, but with his game so predicated on sharp cuts and elusiveness, the knee injury has to be a serious cause for concern. Of course, he will be approximately one year removed from the injury when the regular season begins. But I could just as easily see the Steelers promote Alvester Alexander and draft another running back for depth while re-signing Jonathan Dwyer.
Other Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis Ryan Clark – Unrestricted Free Agent Emmanuel Sanders – Unrestricted Free Agent Brett Keisel – Unrestricted Free Agent Jerricho Cotchery – Unrestricted Free Agent Ziggy Hood – Unrestricted Free Agent Jason Worilds – Unrestricted Free Agent David Johnson – Unrestricted Free Agent Jonathan Dwyer – Unrestricted Free Agent Fernando Velasco – Unrestricted Free Agent Cody Wallace – Unrestricted Free Agent Will Allen – Unrestricted Free Agent Stevenson Sylvester – Unrestricted Free Agent Felix Jones – Unrestricted Free Agent Al Woods – Unrestricted Free Agent Plaxico Burress – Unrestricted Free Agent
Sign LSH to a 1 year non-guaranteed contract(if he’s willing to accept that) then bring in someone through the draft or UDFA add Alexander to the mix then may the best man win in TC and the preseason.
On a side note or at least I hope Alexander proves he can replace F. Jones on the roster.
He’s only 26yrs old and as mentioned wont draw much interest in the market, he should be brought back to compete in the upcoming camp.
I read somewhere that Alexander ran a 4.39 at his pro day, maybe he ends up being that #4 depth guy this season, if they re-sign Dwyer and LSH they could wait to draft another RB and could then just bring in a couple UDFAs to camp
If he didn’t take a step back from the injury and is 100%, I like him as a change of pace kinda guy. He looked good even when the line wasn’t that good early in preseason. At the right price (cheap), keeper.
I think the assumption is Dwyer will return as the short-yardage back, and then the speed back spot will be filled either via the draft or by signing LSH. I think either way they would wait till after the draft before they’d sign LSH. If he gets an offer elsewhere, so be it.
Alexander will be in the mix too. As Steeltown mentioned, he did run a 4.39 at his pro day. Even if that’s a fast watch time, he still is a legit 4.4 something guy. However, he has yet to translate that speed to the NFL level and isn’t necessarily a KR. Even Maysonet, who they just signed to a futures, has a shot since he is KR capable.
It’s possible he may never cut like the used to…..why take that chance? There are more LSH type of players out there.
Are you people brainwashed??? Dwyer isn’t a short yardage back , L.S.H. is broken. And everyone believes that Bell is Gale Sayers reborn. Get real Bell is unproven Dwyer is a great 2nd or 3rd back and we have nothing after that . If you believe anything else i’d love to sell you some Sasquatch pictures.
Bell looks to be pretty solid. I am not going to say Sayers, but if the O-line is looking good next year, you will look at him in a different light. I agree about Dwyer. However, with how responded after the cut and re-sign, I think you have to bring him back. They may pick up a guy late in the draft as well.
Its a shame what happened to him in that first game. Even with the small sample size it looked like he could of really helped this team out. He made some nice runs and showed great burst in the limited carries he had.
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