The Pittsburgh Steelers are still on the hunt for a complementary back behind their workhorse, Le’Veon Bell, since Jonathan Dwyer chose to join the Arizona Cardinals earlier in the offseason.
This is a hole that they would clearly like to fill before the draft rolls around if their recent activity is anything to go by. After losing out on bringing Dwyer back for the minimum, the Steelers intended to bring in Green Bay Packers running back James Starks before he re-signed with his former team.
Earlier this week, they had a look at former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew over the course of a two-day visit, but he left without a contract after all was said and done. Given that he still views himself as a starter and is evidently seeking $3.5 million per season, it’s not surprising that the two sides couldn’t agree at this point in time.
Now, the Steelers are intent on bringing in LeGarrette Blount, a big, bruising back who most recently toted the ball for the New England Patriots, who is scheduled to visit the team on Monday.
Blount was once viewed as a high-round draft pick before an on-field incident threw his draft stock in the trash. You could say it took a sucker punch. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Tennessee Titans before catching fire with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After being phased out of the offense in 2012 in the wake of the drafting of Doug Martin, the Buccaneers were looking to move Blount, and they found a dance partner with the Patriots last season.
At times leading the Patriots’ hydra-headed rushing attack, Blount excelled in his role in New England’s offense as a power runner, carrying the ball 153 times for 772 yards on a 5.0 average to go along with a career-high seven touchdowns.
Not generally regarded as a receiving threat, Blount caught just three passes over the last two seasons, but back in 2011, he was the recipient of 15 passes for 148 yards.
For his career, Blount has caught 23 out of 33 passes with two drops, so while he may not be best suited for such a role, evidenced by his little usage in said department, it is a task that he can handle.
Blount also has a reputation as a back who can’t contribute in pass protection, which is not quite the case. For his career, in fact, while on the field in passing situations, he has been left in to block about a third of the time, giving up seven pressures in 146 career opportunities, or less than five percent of the time. Last season, he didn’t give up a single pressure on 35 pass blocking opportunities.
The bugaboo that has followed Blount throughout his career on the field, however, has long been ball security. In 602 career touches, he’s fumbled 12 times, or about one fumble every 50 touches. That ratio held steady last season, as he lost the ball three times on 155 touches.
The ball security is certainly a big issue for the Steelers, whose starting back lost the ball just once on 289 carries as a rookie. Should Pittsburgh sign Blount, you can rest assured that James Saxon will be working with him to hold on to that ball.
For a 27-year-old back with starting experience who has 2711 yards on 579 carries for a career average of 4.7 yards per carry and 20 touchdowns, and has the potential to come cheap, however, I think it’s a fair gamble to take.