After it was announced that former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer signed with the Arizona Cardinals, we speculated that, based on the contract numbers, it seemed likely the Steelers didn’t have much interest in retaining him.
Dwyer contradicted that speculation yesterday, saying that he had an opportunity to return to Pittsburgh, but preferred the opportunity for playing time that he would have with Bruce Arians in Arizona after Rashard Mendenhall’s retirement.
If the Steelers did indeed want to retain him, and that that threw their plans somewhat askew, then it’s no surprise that we hadn’t heard any interest from the team in the free agent market at running back until yesterday.
Now that they do need to rebuild the stable of running backs behind Le’Veon Bell, however, the Steelers intend to have a look at former Green Bay Packers running back James Starks, whom Steelers fans should be familiar with.
Starks was the starter for the Packers during their 2010 Super Bowl run, which ended with a victory over the Steelers on the world’s biggest stage. Starks also received plenty of playing time against the Steelers late last season after Eddie Lacy was injured.
Despite rushing for 493 yards on 89 carries last season for 5.5 yards per tote and a career-high three touchdowns, the Packers do not need him back, though it’s unknown whether or not the two parties have talked.
In addition to drafting Lacy last season, who was the Offensive Rookie of the Year, they also drafted Johnathan Franklin. They also have DuJuan Harris on the roster, who has performed well for the Packers. That’s already a lot of running backs for a passing team.
Starks would be quite a nice replacement for Dwyer as the complementary back behind Bell. He has maintained a 4.4 yards per carry average over 322 carries, totaling 1427 yards and five touchdowns.
He also has an all-around game, catching 45 passes for 351 yards and a touchdown. The Packers have also frequently used him on third downs and in pass protection in the past with moderate success.
While Dwyer has over time become a reliable pass protector, his ability as a receiver has always been wanting going back to his college days, and he did nothing to dispel that reputation this past season.
While Starks would obviously not be expected to see a ton of playing time behind what the Steelers clearly envision as a workhorse in Bell, the team does need a player that can come in to spell their featured runner and not let up. Starks can give the Steelers exactly that, and perhaps represent an upgrade over Dwyer. For the right price, this would be a very shrewd move, in my estimation.