Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Running Back

By Matthew Marczi

Ask any Pittsburgh Steelers fan now and he’ll tell you that the offseason began way too early for their team, which even according to team president Art Rooney II should have been in the playoffs.

If you asked that same fan at the Bye Week for their mock draft, however, they might have already had written up as the Steelers faced a seemingly unthinkable winless September to start the year.

There’s always somebody ready to start talking about the offseason, no matter how early on it is in the process. And in the middle of January, it’s still quite early to start talking about the draft—not that there’s nothing wrong with that. Here’s a pre-free agency, pre-salary cap purging look at the Steelers’ draft needs, position by position.

We’ve already looked at the quarterback position, which the Steelers are highly unlikely to address at all in the draft, so let’s move on now to the running back position, which was addressed last year with the drafting of Le’Veon Bell in the second round. First, a recap of the current depth chart:

Le’Veon Bell: Bell already showed in his rookie season that he is capable of being a workhorse back for the Steelers. In the five games in which he carried the ball 20 or more times, the team won. He is a very patient runner that can also throw a mean stiff arm or even leap over a defender when need be.

While it was not always evident, he is also certainly a threat in the passing game, as he accumulated 399 receiving yards to go with his 820 rushing yards in 13 games. The Steelers routinely line him up outside, and defenses must account for him. His work in pass protection will only improve in his second season. He has the awareness down, but his technique failed him at times.

Alvester Alexander: Alvester Alexander was a late signing, replacing the softer Curtis McNeal. A former undrafted free agent, Alexander bounced around on practice squads in 2012, but made an impression with the Steelers and stuck on the practice squad all season. He was given junk time snaps in each preseason game, accumulating 43 yards on 15 carries, with a long of 14. With three-fourths of the positional depth chart scheduled to hit free agency, he is a prime candidate to make the roster in 2014.

Miguel Maysonet: Miguel Maysonet went undrafted last season, and has evidently had at least a cup of coffee with six different teams since then prior to being signed to a futures contract by the Steelers. That’s kind of a red flag. Maysonet gained 30 yards on 13 carries and 13 yards on two receptions during the preseason with the Cleveland Browns.

Draft Strategy: As mentioned, the Steelers currently have three running backs from their 2013 roster hitting free agency in the form of Jonathan Dwyer, Felix Jones, and LaRod Stephens-Howling. I certainly doubt all three will be brought back, and I might even be surprised if two return. That largely depends on how Stephens-Howling heals from his ACL injury. He offers a skill set that Todd Haley covets, but he’s not the only player in the league with that skill set.

Dwyer played well as a complementary and short-yardage back last year, and is also the best pass protector on the team. Unless he wants a change of scenery, I believe he’s likely to return. There’s not much meat on the Felix Jones bone, and a cheaper alternative can be readily had.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Steelers address the running back position in this draft. It’s probably a fairly decent bet that they will, in fact, particularly in the late rounds. A record number of underclassmen have declared for the draft this year, and that includes an awful lot of running backs.

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

    any big name running backs in the 2014 like Lacy was last year?

  • Brian Tollini

    I think this class of RB’s lacks a true #1 or big name. Carlos Hyde from Ohio St might be the top back?

  • HopalongCassidy

    Can we find a Bettis clone ?

  • Jon Crissinger

    I think Ka’Deem Carey from Arizona, Tre Mason from Auburn, and Bishop Sankey from Washington.

  • DrakePirate

    we already have our workhorse and our short yardage back set …. the only thing we lack is a change of pace type like sproles/Mccluster and that can be had in the late rounds … i personally like Dri Archer

    No need to bring back Jones or LSH .. would rather have a fresh, cheaper set of legs from the draft !

  • patrick Mayfield

    Definitely a day 3 pick IMO.

    I’m a little concerned that Felix Jones may be in line to take over Mewelde Moore’s role as Tomlin’s security blanket.

  • David Edward

    Agree. Archer is a guy who can be a Chris Rainey type. Another guy in that category would be DeAnthony Thomas. I also like LaDarius Perkins who, while still small, has a tad more meat on him and is most like LSH. On the other end of the spectrum is George Atkinson, who brings some size at 6’1 220 and is a KR.

  • steeltown

    Re-sign Dwyer and bring LSH back to compete if healthy… then maybe draft a late Rd guy and bring in a few UDFAs to compete with Alexander… something tells me Alexander might make the roster this year

  • steeltown

    As long as he’s not the full time kick returner I wouldn’t mind Felix on roster for depth

  • LayDownTheHammer

    Those “Chris Rainey types” are becoming more common (short and quick/fast) but the ones that end up panning out are the ones that sacrifice some 40 speed (not quickness) for adding bulk and meat. Weight -> durability -> pan out in the NFL

  • David Edward

    I think that’s why I tend to be gravitating to Perkins. 5’7 1/2″, but at 189, he’s got 10-20 lbs. on the “Rainey-types”. He’ll probably run in the 4.4s, but even if it’s 4.5, he can do a little bit of everything.

  • grw1960

    RB Charles Sims would be a great fit. But he is probably going to be a mid 3d to mid 4th round pick. Doubt if the Steelers will be interested in a RB that early in the draft

  • David Edward

    Yeah, they wouldn’t use a day 2 pick on a RB. Maybe in the 4th they’d consider one, but I’m thinking 5-7 and leaning toward 6-7.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Dwyer wants to be a Steeler I think…getting released LY and still being available when PIT called was his wakeup call…if he embraces that role he played this season, he’s a good fit. F Jones kind of stabilized what running game we had prior to Bell, but he’s not the change of pace guy that Haley wants…agree with Steeltown on LSH, and drafting a guy again for that role.

  • Patrick Reid

    Antonio Andrews WKU late in the draft. Great steal if available.

  • DrakePirate

    I will take a look at Perkins … i think Archer is way more explosive than Rainey is and more elusive and tougher up the middle as well .. I like DeAnthony Thomas as well, but i think it would require too high of a draft pick

  • DrakePirate

    def not a KR and only for depth if we dont fill the void in the draft

  • DrakePirate

    will look at him

  • Patrick Reid

    Still wanna add a speedy weapon like DAT or Archer. Andrews is more suited to spell Bell. Bonus, he returns kicks also. Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • Matt Manzo

    We could come out of this draft with a big WR, fast TE and speedy RB and STILL get our guys for the D?!!! That would be awesome!

  • DrakePirate

    We could get all that and definitely get a good player or 2 on Def … which would be saying something … i just hope they get a steal or 2 in the draft, uncover a hidden gem or get a shrewd FA signing like in the past … we have too many holes to not be aggressive and miss on the draft … something has to give !