Steelers 2017 Draft Needs Breakdown By Position: Running Back

The Pittsburgh Steelers have several needs at various positions ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft and while I have already outlined them in a previous post, I will now go position group by position group and detail each of them. At the end of these summaries will be my recommendation as to if the Steelers should address the discussed position during the draft and when.
I will start this series off with a look at the running back position.

Le’Veon Bell – While Bell is not currently under contract for the 2017 season, that figures to change in a matter of weeks as the running back will likely be issued the franchise tag. Once that course of action takes place, one could easily speculate that the two sides will then start working on a long-term extension over the course of the summer and on into training camp. With all of that said, there’s still no guarantee that Bell will sign a long-term deal and especially not prior to the 2017 NFL draft taking place. On top of everything else are the concerns that Bell still hasn’t been able to make it through an entire season healthy and the fact that he’s already missed several other games due to suspensions.

DeAngelo Williams – On the surface, it appears Williams is willing to play at least one more season and the Steelers are seemingly open to possibly re-signing him. Even if that ultimately occurs, Williams’ clock is ticking as a reliable backup. The fact that he had an issue with one of his knees in 2016 is it yet another concern that Father Time is not too far off from ending his career. I like Williams and hope he’s ultimately re-signed at an affordable price. If that happens, however, the Steelers still need to know that another option behind him might ultimately be needed at some point during the 2017 season and most definitely beyond.

Fitzgerald Toussaint – Toussaint has done well to stick in the league as long as he has, but with that said, he’s at best a fringe roster player moving forward and definitely not viewed by the team as starter-material. His special teams contributions are limited and that’s yet another concern. While Toussaint is now back in the fold on a one-year exclusive rights tender, that will come with no guarantees that he’ll make the 53-man roster in 2017 out of training camp.

Karlos Williams – There’s currently a lot of optimism from the Steelers fan base when it comes to this Williams and if you saw him play during his rookie season you certainly understand why that is. Understand, however, that Williams still has a lot to prove not only to the Steelers, but the league as well as he’s already been suspended twice. While Karlos Williams recently had his 10-game suspension lifted, he apparently still has another game that he’ll have to serve and thus probably can’t be counted on to make the initial 53-man roster out of training camp.

Recommendation: As you can see, there’s currently quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the Steelers running back depth chart not only for the 2017 season, but beyond. Because of that uncertainty beyond Bell, the Steelers would probably be wise to spend, at the very least, an early third-day draft pick on another running back in what looks to be deep class this year.

  • CP72

    I think you need to build some equity in the position. Counting on two guys that have been suspended multiple times, a 34 year old, and a guy barely has enough talent to hang in the league sounds risky to me.

    In a perfect world we have enough talent already here, but you’re counting on a lot of different scenarios to fall the your way if you ignore the position.

  • Peter MacDonald

    I’d have zero issue if they ignore the position. Juice is THE man, do you really need more than Fitz, DWill and Williams flyer. Just sign ‘a guy’ if they need one. It’s a fungible position and you don’t need more than a guy or two behind Bell

  • Brian Miller

    Agree, and we should have a lot of picks this year, and not necessarily a ton of roster spots available. This is a great class of RBs and we should have a big spot for someone if they get drafted. Plus like you mention it is insurance for Bell and both Williams RBs.

  • CP72

    First let me say I am a huge Le’Veon Bell supporter. He’s a phenomenal player. He’s also a player with multiple drug suspensions and what’s turning into an extensive injury history. That’s not my opinion that’s just the facts.

    I think to ignore the position would be a mistake. The risk vs the reward of not having a viable option is high.

  • CP72

    Yep. Sounds like edge rusher, running back, defensive back, and tight end are deep this year. I think a reasonable argument could be made to add a body at each of these positions.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I think the Steelers need to do the due diligence in picking up a quality HB in the draft. I would be happy with about 8 different guys: Wayne Gallman, Donta Foreman, Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara, Matthew Dayes, Dare Ogunbawale, Elijah Hood, Shock Linwood. Any of those guys 3-7 rounds is what I prefer.

  • Peter MacDonald

    There’s needs I’d rather see them address. Same with QB for me. I look at Bell’s second suspension as administrative not drugs. He missed tests. I expect he’ll be drive for nothing but greatness and be a beast.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Mostly in agreement Dave.

    I absolutely think they should resign D Will and wouldn’t be made at a 5th round or beyond pick being used for an RB. If D Will isn’t signed, I could see them going 4th or even as high as 3rd to get someone.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Not sure how much DWill has left in the tank.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    If he wants to play I think he has plenty. He was still giving us 100 yard games when called upon last season and it isn’t like he hasn’t had to carried the load his whole career.

    I think relative to his age he is still pretty fresh.

  • Rocksolid20

    I like Ellington from the Cards .

  • newguy68

    Rex Burkhead of the Bengals.

  • LucasY59

    Bell: is back for next season, at the very worst he is playing the season on the tag, most likely he is playing on a long term deal (and thats all you need to say about Bell, because if you dont know everything else about him you havent been paying any attention in the last 3-4 yrs)

    D-lo: is 50/50 with me at this point, I would like to see him back, but it would only be on a one yr deal for under 2 mil a yr (which isnt bad since as long as Bell is healthy he will be collecting a check without getting beat up on gamedays) I think the most likely thing for him to do is either come back to play for a contender that he is familiar with and was close to getting him to the game which is his last thing to check off for his carreer, the 2nd most likely thing is that he just retires, but there is a chance he goes somewhere else, Denver and Seattle could use quality Veteran depth at the RB position and would probably be willing to pay more than the Steelers, and then there is the Patriots (who have had a lot of success with older RBs coming in and doing well) I would Hate to see him leave and go there, but it is a possibility (and if he does I hope he never gets a SB ring)

    Fitz: I think he goes through TC and the pre-season with the team (they will need capable bodies to reduce the workload on the two star RBs in camp) but I think if the team drafts a RB (earlier than rd 7) that there is a good chance he is one of the last players cut, I appreciate what he has done for the team (other than a Horrible fumble 2 yrs ago, and terrible performance as a kick returner) but think they should improve the talent behind the top 2 guys (especially since D-lo will be on his last season)

    K.Williams: I really hope he does some good things, and I hope he realizes this is probably his LAST opportunity to do so, so the motivation should be there, I like the idea of having him on the team for a lot of reasons, I think he could be a good big back that they could put in late in games and he could run all over a tired defense (that is worn out from trying to stop LB all game) I also think he could be decent depth that could even step up into a #1 role for a few games if they needed him to, and even if he is the #3 or 4 RB on the team he will still be useful because I think he will be a valuable ST contributor (like his Bro is, and because he is around his bro I think he will be working out this offseason (with Vince and probably Deebo) so very unlikely he shows up to camp out of shape, which was his other problem last yr) so I think he makes the roster as the #4 guy this coming season (which will be kinda easy since the 1st game he has to be inactive/fulfill the final game of his suspension) which also brings up the need to get one more RB (preferably through the draft) because they cant count on him to be more than a #3 guy right now (he is one mistake away from being out a season) if he does well for a whole yr he can move up to a bigger role, but has to prove himself (over time) before that should happen

    Draft pick: couple different ways this could go down… (there is talent in this draft)
    #1:Things would have to go really crazy, but it “could” happen as early as the 1st pick, If a guy like Cook is still available I would have a hard time passing on him (especially with injury/suspension/big $$$ contract issues with Bell, and the uncertainty of the future with DW (only thing certain is he is not on the team right now, and if he does come back it is only for a yr) so it would be a big investment, but could be useful) there is even the possibility of getting McCafferey in the 1st as well, since he is a great pass catcher out of the backfield they could use him in very similar ways to how they use Bell (which I think would be a very good thing for whoever is backing up LB) allows the offense to stay the same even if LeVeon isnt on the field (both 1st rd pick scenarios also include other players the Steelers should be more interested in no longer being available so the RB is a BPA situation) one more thing with Christian is that he provides return skills that could really help the team (their KR is really bad, and getting AB off punts (by getting a guy that could be REALLY good to replace him) is a good idea and seems to be the only way they will actually take Brown off the field)
    #2: 2nd rd pick, not as crazy, and there should still be good talent available, guys like Samaje Perine come to mind, maybe Kamara or Foreman, I think they go heavy on D this draft so there is a chance they wail till later, but the early rd talent (and then kind of drop off from there) make it so they should consider taking a RB
    #3 3rd rd pick, guys like Gallman, Hunt and Clement should be candidates here, maybe even Mixon? (dont like his off field stuff, but a lot of what I said about McCafferey applies to Joe)
    #4 on the last day of the draft, guys like James Connor or DeVeon Smith are possibilties (not sure which rd? 4-6?)
    #5 7th rd/UDFA, who knows who is still available, basically the only way they upgrade from Toussaint at this point is by the RB being younger, but would at least bring SOMEONE in to compete (good chance Fitz still makes the roster if it come to this)

    FA: IF they dont bring back D.Williams there is a chance they sign a low priced Vet FA, havent really looked at who that could possibly be, but think it is a real possibility

  • LucasY59

    I only agree with you on QB because the talent level for QBs is low (even in the really early rds) the RB talent is really good into the 4th rd, so I think it would be a good idea to address the need by then (because there is a NEED to have more than 1 RB)

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Hope you are right. He did not seem to have as much spring in his step in 2016 compared to 2015. Just by me eyeball test; perhaps film analysis shows it differently.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    You might be right. Just checking his stats this year 2 of the 3 games he played his average wasn’t great but what jumps out at me is the amount of carries he was able to handle and how he puts points on the board consistently in both phases of the game.

    26 carries, 143 yards, 1 TD, 6 REC
    32 carries, 94 yards, 4 REC, 1 REC TD
    23 carries, 67 yards, 1 TD, 3 REC, 1 REC TD

    He also doesn’t fumble. I think if you go in not expecting Bell to get hurt, D Will is the perfect backup. Not that it isn’t good to have an insurance policy behind him as well.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Agree. I admire D Will’s work ethic.