Steelers Draft Needs – Running Back
Earlier in the offseason, we took a position-by-position look at where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand with their roster before the free agency process both ravaged and replenished the talent pool.
The Steelers entered the process with 22 free agents. They re-signed six of them, while losing eight more to other teams, with eight remaining unsigned. They also added seven free agents from other teams.
With the roster picture now much clearer and draft needs much easier to determine, it’s time to revisit those positional draft charts to see which positions are areas of need come draft time.
The first position we’ll revisit will be the running back position. The Steelers entered this process with three running backs hitting free agency. They have yet to re-sign any of them, but Jonathan Dwyer did sign elsewhere. Pittsburgh believes they upgraded their depth with the signing of LeGarrette Blount.
Le’Veon Bell: After the Steelers concluded that it was time to move on from Rashard Mendenhall, they set their sights on replacing him in the draft last year, and they came away with Le’Veon Bell, a big, tall back out of Michigan State.
Last season, he broke the franchise record for yards from scrimmage for a rookie despite sitting out the first three games with an injury, rushing for 860 yards and adding another 399 yards through the air. He rushed for eight touchdowns and fumbled just once while showing resilience coming back from the mistake by ripping off a hurdling 25-yard run on his next carry.
The Steelers believe they have their back of the future in Bell, a player who can be trusted on all three downs and is still just 22 years old. As indicated in an article earlier this morning, there are expectations from around the league for him to improve upon a promising rookie campaign.
LeGarrette Blount: After the Steelers failed to re-sign Dwyer and then proceeded to lose out on a few other names at the position, they turned their sights to LeGarrette Blount. He had played under both new Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak and head coach Mike Tomlin’s friend, Rahim Moore, who was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during his first two seasons there.
Blount brings experience as a complement to the youthful Bell. While they generally have similar styles—namely large-bodied ball carriers with deceptive speed and agility for their frame—the Steelers believe the two can work well together.
Alvester Alexander: Currently the only other back of significance on the roster would be Alvester Alexander, and that’s primarily because he managed to stay on the practice squad all season without getting released. Whether that bodes well for his chances of sticking on the 53 this year remains to be seen, but that greatly hinges on how they approach the position in the upcoming draft.
Draft Prognosis: The Steelers have their top two players at the position, but they certainly need at least one more, if not two. That makes it a pretty good chance that they end up drafting one at some point this year, especially given how the position is devalued. They have six picks in the last four rounds this year.
One contingency would be if they intend to re-sign LaRod Stephens-Howling. Given that he is recovering from an ACL injury, however, that wouldn’t come until later, meaning that the team’s interest in re-signing him would hinge on what they do in the draft more than vice versa. One would think, given the bulk of their top two backs, that they may be interested in a slighter, more shifty back, and there are a few runners of note in that vein that can be had on day three this year.