Will Three Running Backs Be Enough For The Steelers In 2014?

When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Dri Archer in the third-round of the 2014 NFL Draft, they acquired a player with the ability to not only play running back, but wide receiver as well. While Archer’s position flexibility could give the Steelers some flexibility when it comes to the two position groups when finalizing their 53 man roster out of training camp, there’s no guarantee that it will.

For starters, despite Archer’s receiving abilities, the Steelers are likely to carry five true wide receivers out of training camp this year at a minimum. The only real question at this point is whether or not that fifth, or even sixth wide receiver will be Justin Brown, Derek Moye or Darrius Heyward-Bey.

In 2012, the Steelers started the season with only four true wide receivers on their 53 man roster, but all four, unlike this year, were experienced and proven players.In short, the addition of a position flexible Archer is unlikely to save the Steelers a roster spot this year as far as the wide receiver position group goes.

That now leaves us to speculate about the running back group and whether or not Archer’s future abilities as an NFL running back are good enough to warrant the Steelers only carrying him and primary backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount on the final 53 man roster in addition to fullback Will Johnson, who has all of two carries during his first two years in the league.

In doing the above, the Steelers run the risk of putting themselves in a position where one pre-game hamstring injury or twisted ankle suffered by Bell or Blount would result in a very thin running back group from an experience standpoint. Now, I’m not suggesting taking the chicken little approach when it comes to any position group in regards to potential injuries, but it is something to think about nonetheless.

Should Archer show during the preseason that he can run between the tackles with some success, the need for an additional true running back on the final 53 man roster will be greatly reduced. He needs to show it first, however.

If an additional running back on the final 53 man roster is ultimately deemed necessary, that spot would be presumably filled by either Alvester Alexander, Miguel Maysonet or Tauren Poole. If one of these three players were to wind up making the final 53 man roster, one would think that their ability to play well on special teams would be crucial.

So where do I come down on this? Barring any preseason injuries, I think the Steelers will only carry Bell, Blount and Archer in addition to Johnson on their final 53 man roster this year. That would leave Alexander, Maysonet and Poole all battling for a spot on the practice squad, because I do not believe any of the three have superior special team skills to warrant keeping.

  • Big White

    Absolutely right DB. Those three are very versatile(including Blount regardless of his brand as just a power back). Also, running back may be the easiest position to fill due to injury with either a PS guy or someone on the free market. My only concern is that none of the three will play kick coverage, making an extra corner or safety STeamer a necessity.

  • dgh57

    I think if they’re looking for a 4th RB that Alexander, Maysonet, and Poole could all get a long look at in the upcoming preseason games and if none of them pan out a FA at the RB position could be signed. It’s a long season and because of possible injuries it would be risky to only go with 3 RBs(not counting WJ)on the team.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    The only way I see another RB making the 53 is if he comes from someone else’s roster. A cut by someone else. A trade like last year. If we are going to cut a good player at a position of strength, it might make sense. I don’t see any of the RBs we have in camp beside the main guys making this team if you go by the mantra….best 53 team we can put together.

  • John21

    I think the Steelers will keep 6 WR (AB, MW, LM, DA, JB & DHB) which will mean only 3 active RB’s. Whoever wins the camp battle will be PS bound. I think Poole will surprise–he is solid & dependable; just not great at any one thing

  • steeltown

    We carried Bell, Dwyer, F.Jones and WJ last season with Alexander on the PS I could see something similar to that again this year in regards to numbers at the position (Bell, Blount, Archer and WJ with Alexander or Poole on the PS)

  • Anthony Tudi

    So you’re saying Martavis Bryant won’t make the 53..?

  • dgh57

    I don’t think that was the plan though going into the season as LSH went down Game 1 with a season ending injury.

  • walter mason


  • steeltown

    Yea but they had released Dwyer prior to the regular season getting underway, only re-signing him once LSH suffered the injury, so the numbers would be the same

  • chris ward

    Think the Steelers will keep 3 active RB’s Bell, Blount, Archer, along with Will Johnson on the 53.

  • Lil Smitty

    I tried adding all the position numbers up and it is possible to carry more than three RB’s. QBs-3, OLs-9, WRs-6, TEs-3, DLs-6, LBs-9, DBs-9, LS&K&P-3 that all adds up to 51. There will be two roster spots left to fill. If a camp RB shows he can be productive, then they may carry a fourth. The last two bodies will probably be added at RB, TE, or DL. IMO!

  • dgh57

    Yeah okay, but we’re forgetting about Redman who I think started the first 2 or 3 games as a fill in for Bell.

  • steeltown

    Very true, I almost forgot about that. But in addition to LSH, Bell was also injured, once he returned (week 4) Redman was then inactive and ultimately released.

  • Big White

    Munchak believes in the FB position. So one will be there, I just haven’t seen much from Johnson. Vontae Leach is still a top 3 blocking FB and is hoping to sign with someone here in the next week or two. I’d cut Johnson for Leach in a heartbeat.

  • MP34

    I don’t see why Will Johnson shouldn’t be given reps as an emergency RB. He’s carried the ball occasionally in preseason. Give the guy some reps, and save a roster spot. He can catch and has good speed apparently. Where else will you easily find a 6’2 250lb RB on the street? A modern-day FB should be prepared to block, catch, and run to keep a roster spot.

  • steeltown

    I think we’ll see an extra LB on roster this yr, plus I also think we’ll carry 10DBs

  • treeher

    I’m going to be controversial here and predict that they release WJ or relegate him to PS. One could argue that he has had no impact on the running game, based on stats over last two seasons.

  • steelerdre

    If they smart they should carry and extra running back just in case of injury to Bell or Blount. That fourth running back must provide position flexibility and able to play special teams.

  • joed32

    Is LSH healthy yet?

  • Steve

    Archer was an excellent Kickoff return specialist in his 4 years at Kent State, why can’t he do that in the pros?

  • Big White

    I was referring to kick coverage, not returns. Love to see him cover kicks, but don’t think the coaching staff would let him.

  • Chris Wood

    I would like to see us consider Archer as 1 of 6 wide receivers and keep either Poole, AA or Maysonet. You can line Archer up anywhere and get productivity our of him, so count him as a WR and keep another guy you can send through the tackles without the fear of sending a wine glass through the washing machine. Making catching out of the backfield should be a HUGE priority to spread the opposing defensive responsibilities around. Getting the safeties as close to the line of scrimmage as you can should be the game plan when you have speed at receiver, like we now do.

  • James Kling

    I’d add Bryant to the 6 WR list and Dri to the 3 RB list. Comes down to the value of Brown and/or DHB vs. the RBs in this article; DHB can play STs, and I think Brown is showing enough to be a depth guy.

  • wdhammer

    Archer will be used as a 3rd down guy or a slot. Kick and punt returner . His time at running back will be limited .