The selection of Florida running back/wide receiver Chris Rainey in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft was considered a steal by many experts, while Pittsburgh Steelers fans were brimming with excitement that was only replaced by anticipation of what the speedster could achieve on the field. Not since Antwaan Randle El, or maybe Antonio Brown, had the Steelers seen a weapon who was expected to bring the unpredictability and big plays that every offense at this level craves. Alas, just one year into his professional career, Rainey has already found himself searching for the nearest unemployment line.
After an altercation with his girlfriend, when Rainey was reportedly seen slapping his girlfriend by multiple witnesses, the Steelers decided to waive Rainey today and will officially release him after the playoffs conclude. That is a far cry from the anticipation that accompanied him entering training camp and the entertainment that was enjoyed during the preseason. However, it is somewhat similar to the disappointment that Rainey was in the regular season.
To give him his due, he was an excellent kickoff returner, but never really made any impact on the offense. It could be argued that Rainey wasn’t used perfectly by Todd Haley, but the reality was his excellent speed wasn’t matched by the rest of his footballing ability. The 24-year-old running back limited the offense as much as he helped it. He couldn’t be a full-time running-back, or even much of a third down back, because of his inability to pick up pass rushers. While his lack of agility and awareness limited his ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. Rainey may be incredibly fast running in a straight line or with a running start in the open field, but it doesn’t appear to translate onto the field taking screens or coming out of the backfield as a receiver.
Outside of turning Rainey into a full-time slot receiver, and likely spending years developing him, he likely didn’t have the footballing ability to be anything more than a special teams player. Rainey’s two rushing touchdowns this season came against AFC North opposition. He bounced off a defender from the one-yard line against the Cleveland Browns, after running untouched up the middle before falling into the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals. Unfortunately, those plays were too few and far between. Rainey was expected to be a home-run hitter who could turn quick slants into long touchdowns and screen passes into big plays on a consistent basis. His longest run of the season went for 19 yards while his longest reception went for 14. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry and 4.3 per reception and on 26 carries, Rainey had 102 yards with another 60 yards receiving on 14 receptions.
Most importantly, on just 40 offensive touches the rookie had four fumbles.
Rainey didn’t offer big plays. He didn’t look comfortable in the offense. He is too small to ever be a relevant pass blocker and can’t be trusted to hold onto the ball. The likelihood of him turning that around to even fulfill his fifth-round draft pick potential appeared glum. Having off-field issues threw question marks over his character and ultimately confirmed his bust status.
Because of his excerpts on special teams, Rainey should easily find a new team in the NFL. However, if he ever becomes anything more than a good kick returner it would be a surprise.