The Pittsburgh Steelers have all sorts of problems this off-season, including what to do about being $14 million over the NFL salary cap. But one of the biggest decisions that must be made will be what to do about the running back position.
The Steelers from the owner down through management was not happy about the state of the run offense in 2012.
“Where we were in the running game last year was indicative in the talent at the position,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said.
Free agent Rashard Mendenhall, who Pittsburgh has had high hopes for ever since acquiring the 25-year old, did not pan out. This was mostly due to injuries, which forced him to miss 10 games, but his overall attitude in general this past season did not sit well with coaches. In six games, he was only able to muster 181 rushing yards on 51 carries. For these reasons, and the fact the team will not be able to afford him, Mendenhall is not expected to be back with the team in 2013.
Considering the Steelers do not have the financial capability to bring in a free agent running back or even pick up someone like Ahmad Bradshaw off of the streets, they are left with who is still in house as well as draft picks. Without Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman will most likely have to take the load while Baron Batch will line up as the third-down back. The problem is none of these players are built to handle the load of a feature running back, which means if Pittsburgh thinks they can improve their running game in-house, they are going to be sadly mistaken.
Dwyer led the team in rushing last season with 623 yards and two touchdowns on 156 carries. Redman followed him with 110 carries for 410 yards and two touchdowns. The four backs mentioned in this article combined to average 3.7 yards per rush attempt in 2012. There is really no reason to believe Dwyer or Redman will improve their running style by next season, especially if the Steelers are forced to part ways with at least one offensive lineman due to money problems.
Selecting two running backs in between the third and sixth rounds of the NFL Draft will definitely be a wise decision. However, Pittsburgh must be careful who they draft and when, considering the team has plenty of glaring needs.
Like the black and blue division also known as the NFC North, teams in the AFC North have to run the football if they want to be victorious. Being the worst rushing team in the division will certainly get the black and yellow nowhere fast.