The Pittsburgh Steelers seem committed to adding a free agent running back prior to the 2013 NFL draft. They had Ahmad Bradshaw in for a workout, but the reality is Bradshaw is damaged goods and not worth a contract. News this week is the Steelers are going to bring in another free agent running back in LaRod Stephens-Howling as a potential free agent signing.
The strategy of a veteran back seems to make sense, as they should come cheap and allow the Steelers to focus their draft picks toward other areas.
Stephens-Howling is an interesting guy because he’s young and has shown some flashes, but he’s undersized and hasn’t been terribly productive during his time in the league. But there is a better solution. The Philadelphia Eagles have put it out there that running back Dion Lewis is on the trading block. Lewis has been stuck buried on the Eagles depth chart, but he’s a little bigger than Stephens-Howling, has fewer carries on him, and is just as dynamic, of not more so.
Lewis is also three years younger than Stephens-Howling, both are local college players–products of the University of Pittsburgh–and would bring a more dynamic element to the run game, an element the Steelers had hoped to get from running back Chris Rainey last year, but unfortunately his offseason indiscretions got him released.
There are certainly similarities to the games of Lewis and Stephens-Howling, and while I concede that Lewis would cost a late round pick, my gut tells me Lewis is a better all around football player and would be a better fit for the Steelers–and if by chance he costs a 5th round pick to get so be it. If the Steelers don’t land a running back in free agency, they would likely spend an earlier pick on a back anyway, so there’s nothing really lost here.
With all the interest the Steelers have in a adding a veteran running back, I hope they give some consideration to dealing for Lewis and adding him to the run game for 2013.