James Starks Re-Signing With Green Bay Puts The Steelers In A Bind

The Green Bay Packers seem to have seen fit to undercut the Pittsburgh Steelers late last night, agreeing to terms on a new two-year contract with their own free agent running back, James Starks.

Starks, of course, was set to visit Pittsburgh today, with a fair likelihood of working out a deal, but that visit is now off.

As I wrote recently, Starks provided a complementary skill set that would have offered a nice substitute for what they were losing in Jonathan Dwyer, who favored his chances of playing time and advancement with the Arizona Cardinals rather than re-signing with the team that drafted him.

The Packers’ decision is somewhat surprising, in that it doesn’t appear to be a much needed signing. In addition to drafting 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy last year, they also drafted Johnathan Franklin, and they have DuJuan Harris under contract for one more season as well.

This places the Steelers in a bind, as they have no running backs with experience behind Le’Veon Bell, who is only entering his second season.

Behind Bell are just Alvester Alexander, who spent last season on the practice squad, Miguel Maysonet, and Tauren Poole. All three are former undrafted free agents with no playing experience.

As always, of course, there are other options to be had for the Steelers in free agency to supplement their dearth of talent in the running back stable, despite missing out on the chance to sign Starks.

As Dave Bryan wrote a few days ago, not much interest has been expressed in Knowshon Moreno, the Denver Broncos free agent who ran for 1038 yards on 241 carries and 10 rushing touchdowns last season, adding 60 receptions for 548 yards and an addition three touchdowns through the air.

Former New York Giants running back Andre Brown, displaced by their signing of Rashad Jennings and Peyton Hillis, is also a man without a team. He has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, but he is capable of being highly successful, and has a fairly complete skill set.

I could list a myriad of names and the advantages and disadvantages of adding them to the roster, such as LeGarrette Blount’s inability to block, despite his hard-nosed running style, but until we start hearing more names, it seems fairly pointless.

I suspect that nothing has changed from earlier reports that the Steelers would like to retain LaRod Stephens-Howling, but that topic is a long way away as he continues to rehab a torn ACL suffered at the beginning of the 2013 season.

Felix Jones is also an option to return, but it seems that the likelihood of the team addressing the position through the draft is only increasing as the days tick by.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Steelers12328882

    Moreno or Brown would probably cost way too much, but I wouldn’t mind those two if they cold be had for cheaper. I can’t stand Felix Jones and LSH is coming off that ACL. Signing either of those two would seem like an offseason failure. How good does Dwyer look now?

  • Paddy

    Everyone costs too much for the Steelers to sign. The players know it as well as their agents. Good thing there are drafts and UFA’s or the Pittsburgh Steelers would be out of business. What are they waiting for to extend Ben and to sign Worilds?

  • grw1960

    I believe the Steelers have tried to add more quality free agents this year.
    But I also think all the teams have been more active this year. Thus, prices and competition for Free Agents have caught some teams by surprise and hurt the conservative teams like the Steelers for now.
    I am sure the positions the Steelers aren’t able to bolster through the draft. Will be filled eventually when other players become available thru cuts and waivers

  • Caesar

    With what RBs are getting this offseason, can’t imagine that Andre Brown is going to command too high of a price. Michael Bush would also make a good backup for a year or two and should be cheap. And if all else fails, let’s call Mewelde Moore!

    And by the way, at WR, let’s give Damian Williams a call. He’s young, 6’1, has experience, and has gotten virtually no interest. Should be a manageable and more dynamic get than Lance Moore.

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    Same old , same old.

  • Jollyrob68

    They can teach Blount how to block or sign Moreno.

  • steeltown

    This is getting ridiculous.. we have to sign someone, Moreno, Blount, Bush or oft injured Brown could all offer some value

  • dgh57

    With needs also at CB, DE, and OLB we really don’t need this problem at RB! With limited cash available(barring a major contract redo)some of these needs are going to have to be taken care of through the draft.

  • James Kling

    RBs are fungible. Especially COP and backups. I’m not particularly worried about this, TBH. If LSH is back to speed, he looked great in preseason last year. Poole and Alvarez are speedy guys, and Maysonet is a grinder. MJD is still out there, guys like Michael Bush, Bernard Scott… plus we can bring someone in via late rounds of the draft.

  • Callentown

    These are the risks when you play the FA game the way the Steelers do.

    Personally, I’d like to see what Andre Brown’s cost would be. He’s young and isn’t getting the interest. Should make him more affordable and he has a higher ceiling than Starks. Plus he can catch!

  • The Great Mr Slippery

    What I felt after reading this: Damn if only Bell wasn’t hurt to start he would have taken OROY

  • Tom

    I agree…..the team seems to need as little/lot more wiggle room/cap space for Free Agent signings. Outside of the Mitchell signing…it seems like everyone they are interested in turns out to be “too expensive”

  • Milliken Steeler

    I think they realize the mistake. He took AZ’s offer because he was offered the minimum here, so he took the minimum there. A 1.25m contract isn’t much more and probably would have kept him here.

    Hopefully we somehow find a cheap FA however, we now have to address htis position in the draft when we didn’t have to before.

  • Paddy

    If Starks really was coming to Pittsburgh which he wasn’t, Colbert and Tomlin along with Haley are in Florida. Agents lie

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Seems to be a pride thing with Green Bay: “Nobody signs OUR free agents but US!”

  • steelster

    as the saying goes next man up.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I like your optimism but you do need someone with some exp. as a back up who can play at a decent level. I feel MJD is basically finished, Bush has a lot of years on him but Scott may work. I did like this Maysonet coming out of college and

  • Jason

    What’s Najeh Davenport doing now? Boy I loved watching him return kickoffs. Reminded me of Felix Jones with his explosiveness (all sarcasm). We need to sign a decent #2 and draft a change of pace guy unless they feel LSH can return to form.

  • steelersfan

    Ed Bouchette has speculated that the reason the Starks visit, which was originally scheduled for Monday, was pushed to Tuesday was because Tomlin and Colbert were giving a speech at Pirates camp and that this could be why Starks delayed his visit. He speculates that delaying the visit may have allowed the Packers to jump in and re-sign him. If this is indeed part of what happened I am stunned that the front office could be so careless at such a critical point in the off season.

  • Matt Manzo

    Is Anthony Dixon still available?
    I’m not crying over Starks. His skills can be found elsewhere.
    I’d rather have Bush or Dixon.

  • Jacob Dixon

    Dixon signed with buffalo

  • OIF3gunner

    No to Bush. I live and work in the Chicagoland area. I was excited when he signed with the bears only to be let down. I would rather have a rookie.

  • Matt Manzo


  • Bill Molinaro

    Decent running backs can usually be found in the draft. Any good FA backs are beyond the Steelers’ financial reach. The only worthwhile RBs I see remaining are Tim Hightower and Ryan Grant and they are both coming off injures.