The Pittsburgh Steelers hoped to help their shorthanded backfield with their fifth-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Steelers picked running back/receiver/return specialist Chris Rainey with the 159th overall pick out of the University of Florida.
Rainey was a jack-of-all-trades with the Gators, tallying 3,948 all-purpose yards throughout his collegiate career. In addition to being a starter at tailback and slot receiver, Rainey also excelled on special teams by setting a Southeastern Conference and a school record with six blocked punts.
This draft pick should definitely help Pittsburgh’s running game, especially with last year’s rusher Rashard Mendenhall recovering from reconstructive surgery of a torn ACL. Rainey may not be a three-down back, but will be a great fit for third-down situations, not only in the backfield but lined up in the slot as well.
When asked by reporters from the Steelers official website what role he felt that he could fill for the team, Rainey said, “I can play running back. I can play slot. I can play special teams. Wherever they want me, because I’m a playmaker all around. I fell that I fit perfect with the offense.”
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley had this to say about Rainey:
“Chris is a guy that we’re real excited to bring into the mix. I think he is a very versatile player that is obviously fast and explosive. He can catch the ball, he can run with it and he can return it. That’s a commodity and we’re really excited to bring him aboard and work with him and put him into the mix.”
The 5’8 ¾”, 180-pound back will more than likely lighten the load that was put on Pro Bowler Antonio Brown on special teams, and handle the punt return duties for Pittsburgh.
Although the Florida native will be far from home, he will be around at least one familiar face. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and Rainey were high school teammates at Lakeland High School in Lakeland, FL, as well as at Florida.
Pouncey isn’t the only player that Rainey knows with NFL experience. It just so happens that Rainey is the younger brother of former Carolina Panthers running back Rod Smart (also know as He Hate Me of the now defunct XFL).
The Steelers are getting better and better with every pick after the first five rounds of the draft. Some of the worries and doubts of Steeler Nation are starting to settle, and with very good reason. Pittsburgh’s front office has already assembled a draft class with a high level of talent and skill, and with the addition of experienced veterans and Pro Bowl caliber players, the Steelers should have one of the strongest teams in the league.
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