On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Steelers are scheduled to work out free agent running back Ahmad Bradshaw with the assumption that he could sign a free agent contract with the team. The Steelers have been very quiet in free agency up to this point, allowing far more talent to leave than they have even considered bringing in.
But the real question is should the Steelers even consider bringing in Bradshaw at this point, or is picking a running back is the NFL Draft a better option?
Bradshaw is an interesting back with what should be considered a reasonably successful career in his six seasons, all of which have been with the New York Giants. He has topped 1,000 yards rushing twice but unfortunately has been bitten multiple times by the injury bug, and was only active for 16 games once. When he’s been healthy, though, he has shown excellent quickness and agility and surprising power for a back his size.
That said, is a player like Bradshaw a better option than a late round draft pick? I would say no. This team has two running backs entrenched in Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. Neither one is going to be mistaken for All Pros at this point but as we saw last year, they can be very productive within the system and have the confidence of the Steelers coaching staff.
So, what could be gained by adding in an oft-injured veteran back who would likely be only a member of a running back rotation? I’d say nothing. This draft class of running backs is deep, and features a very diverse group of players who can fill a multitude of roles for a team like the Steelers.
Last season they sought out a speed back in the draft with Chris Rainey, which backfired when off-the-field issues forced the Steelers to release him. If they want a similar type of player, they could draft Kenjon Barner from Oregon or Onterio McCalebb from Auburn. Both are lighting fast and explosive.
Or if they want a player more similar to Bradshaw’s style, Zac Stacy from Vanderbilt or Mike Gillislee from Florida would fit the bill. None of them have the injury red flags, the mileage, or would cost as much as Bradshaw.
This Steelers team has significant needs if they want to be competitive in the AFC North in 2013, so pouring money into a free agent running back that cannot be depended on doesn’t seem like a prudent decision, especially with so many talented rookie backs available.