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Thread: Steelers Sunday Spotlight: Running back / Help wanted

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    Legend hawaiiansteel's Avatar
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    Steelers Sunday Spotlight: Running back / Help wanted

    Steelers Sunday Spotlight: Running back / Help wanted

    First in a weekly series

    January 20, 2013
    By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    The once-proud Steelers running game ground to a crawl in 2012, producing its fewest yards since the "Tommy Gun" offense failed so miserably in 2003.

    And it's only getting worse.

    The Steelers have one halfback under contract for 2013, Baron Batch, whose broken forearm is mending. Rashard Mendenhall is an unrestricted free agent. Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman are restricted free agents. The Steelers announced they would cut Chris Rainey hours after the half-pint halfback was arrested in Florida on charges of domestic battery; that will become official after the Super Bowl.

    They have no true feature halfback if they do not sign Mendenhall, who had a terrible 2012 season because of injuries and a mistake in judgment that cost him a one-game suspension and perhaps a chance to return for 2013.

    Their priority must be either to re-sign Mendenhall or bring in another feature back, most likely through the draft. They cannot go into their next season without one. Dwyer and Redman are complementary backs and they have value in that. Batch can be a good role player, one similar to that played by Mewelde Moore from 2008-11.

    "I can say collectively that group wasn't as good as we anticipated," general manager Kevin Colbert said Wednesday.

    If they are serious about improving their running game, they must find a runner to do so. The odds of Mendenhall returning are not good. First, do the coaches and/or his teammates want him back after he failed to show up for their game Dec. 9 against San Diego after he was informed he would be inactive? And does Mendenhall want to return to a team and a coach who did not start him again after he fumbled twice in four carries Nov. 25 at Cleveland?

    It is the second time coach Mike Tomlin benched his former first-round draft choice. He did not play him at halfback Sept. 27, 2009 at Cincinnati, because he felt his preparation that week did not warrant it. Mendenhall played only on special teams that game.

    Yet through it all, Mendenhall has been a good back when not injured. He ran for 1,108 yards and a 4.6-yard average per carry in 2009 and 1,273 yards and a 3.9-yard average with 13 touchdowns in 2010. He had 928 yards and a 4.1-yard average when his 2011 season ended early in the final game at Cleveland with a torn ACL.

    Mendenhall missed the first three games of this past season because of that injury. He started in the fourth game and looked like the old Mendenhall, running for a 13-yard touchdown with a lateral that was later ruled a pass reception and picking up 68 yards on 13 carries.

    But early in the next game at Tennessee, his achilles was hurt after his sixth carry, and he would miss the next four games.

    Mendenhall managed only 182 yards rushing on 51 carries and scored no touchdowns on the ground. He is young, turning 26 in June. He is 5 feet 10 inches, 225 pounds and has the combination of speed, quickness and enough power to make him a dangerous runner, as he was for several seasons.

    Good runners, as the Houston Texans have shown with Arian Foster and the Steelers did with another undrafted player in Willie Parker, can be found anywhere. But the best still go high in the draft.

    The Steelers have a choice: Sign Mendenhall or draft one, and scouts have identified no back as a great prospect this year. One or two might be drafted in the first round, but early on, no back is rated a first-round prospect. Alabama's Eddie Lacy is rated as the top back by NFLDraftScout.com, but that site gives him a second-round grade.

    Dwyer led the Steelers with 623 yards, their lowest leading rusher since Merrill Hoge topped Chuck Noll's final team in 1991 with 810. Dwyer averaged 4.0 yards a carry and scored twice, as did Redman, who came in second with 410 yards and a 3.7-yard average.

    Those two combined for three consecutive individual 100-yard games at midseason. Dwyer ran for 122 at Cincinnati and 107 the following game against Washington. But he did not play in the next game because of a thigh injury, and Redman ran for 147 at the New York Giants. The Steelers won all three games.

    They did little on the ground the rest of the way.

    There is no question that Dwyer and Redman are big enough, but they are not quick enough to avoid hits or tackles, and their consistency was not good. They also had various injuries throughout the season that curtailed them and a constantly shifting offensive line.

    Neither is seen as a back the Steelers want to have as their top runner in 2013.

    Batch, who missed his entire rookie season with an ACL injury that occurred in training camp, came back with a limited role in 2012. He had only 25 carries for 49 yards and caught four passes. That role should expand next season, especially with Rainey out of the picture.

    The Steelers had plans for Rainey and thought he could develop into a role player as well with his speed. They did not release him because they did not believe in his playing ability, as some might suggest.

    Adding a feature back should lift all boats in this backfield because the three remaining halfbacks are all capable complementary backs.

    For the first time in years, the Steelers also counted a fullback among their backfield. Will Johnson served primarily as a blocker and an occasional receiver. He caught 15 passes for 137 yards and one touchdown and carried only twice for 7 yards. They believe he will only get better at a position that was new to him in his first year in the NFL.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/...#ixzz2IfFmOeDP

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    Administrator steelz09's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawaiiansteel View Post
    The Steelers have a choice: Sign Mendenhall or draft one, and scouts have identified no back as a great prospect this year. One or two might be drafted in the first round, but early on, no back is rated a first-round prospect. Alabama's Eddie Lacy is rated as the top back by NFLDraftScout.com, but that site gives him a second-round grade.
    Just sign the Saints Ivory and fix the problem. That will save us a draft pick. We need all the early picks we can get. I wouldn't mind if OLB, ILB, WR and S were the 1st 4 picks in this draft (in any order depending on BPA). In the mid-late round picks, I'd add a CB/S, LB, TE, QB in any order.

    Sure, Lacy would be nice but I don't see him lasting until our 2nd.

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    Pro Bowler supersteeler's Avatar
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    This draft doesn't have too many backs that are feature backs like the article states, and I doubt the Steelers take a back in the first round to get one. Remember sometimes there could be a back that falls through the cracks like Foster, or Fast Willie that wasn't projected as a strong candidate.


    Just my opinion but I would draft a superior LG first, this way our interior line would be much better to handle blocking assignments and whoever we draft or the guys left might have better results and success. My thought is an average back or slightly better than average could still be good with a solid o-line to block for him.
    If we have a feature back who is really good in college and projected to be a starter in the pro's, there isn't any guarantee he will have the same success without a strong run blocking line.

    Same with our defense, a superior NT will make our LB's better, of course it would help with better DE's as well.

    My position is when your strong up front on both lines, everything behind it will be better. Its still fact that most games are won on the LOS.

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    Hall of Famer costanza2k1's Avatar
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    I don't think the answer entirely lies within what RB we get, it's what OL coach will complement the Haley offense.
    ours is not to wonder why just invert and multiply...

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    Pro Bowler supersteeler's Avatar
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    Talking about running backs anyone remember when we drafted Walter Abercrombie in the first round?

    That was one BIG miss by the Steelers, we could of drafted Marcus Allen who became a Raider after we picked.
    As much as we need a back, very few feature backs available on the draft boards.

    Abercrombie never had a 1,000 yrd. season, in his best year I believe it was around 8 hundred and some change. As for Marcus, not only was he a great back he was damn good catching the ball as well.


    Btw, When we picked up the HOTEL as a FA our run game was better, a solid line fixes more than just the run game.
    DECASRTO POUNCEY WARMACK = A STRONG RUSHING ATTACK!
    Last edited by supersteeler; 01-23-2013 at 04:11 PM.

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    Hall of Famer ikestops85's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by supersteeler View Post
    Talking about running backs anyone remember when we drafted Walter Abercrombie in the first round?

    That was one BIG miss by the Steelers, we could of drafted Marcus Allen who became a Raider after we picked.
    As much as we need a back, very few feature backs available on the draft boards.

    Abercrombie never had a 1,000 yrd. season, in his best year I believe it was around 8 hundred and some change. As for Marcus, not only was he a great back he was damn good catching the ball as well.


    Btw, When we picked up the HOTEL as a FA our run game was better, a solid line fixes more than just the run game.
    DECASRTO POUNCEY WARMACK = A STRONG RUSHING ATTACK!
    I remember when he played and thinking what a bust. However, just a few years ago I read "Ruanaidh" by Art Jr and in the book he said Abercrombie hurt his knee during his first year and never recovered. He still thinks the guy could have been a superstar had it not been for the injury.
    <a href=http://seahawknationblog.com/files/2011/02/roger-goodell.jpg target=_blank>http://seahawknationblog.com/files/2...er-goodell.jpg</a>

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    He had a helluva playoff game in Denver in that big upset win. That was a crazy year.

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    Legend hawaiiansteel's Avatar
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    Why The Pittsburgh Steelersí Rushing Game Could Be Equally As Bad In 2013

    Jan 22nd, 2013 by Matt Shetler



    North Carolina Tar Heels running back Giovani Bernard (26) runs past Virginia Cavaliers defensive end Bill Schautz (47).

    One of the stories of how disappointing the 2012 season was for the Pittsburgh Steelers was without a doubt their rushing attack that ranked 26th in the NFL in rushing and 28th with a 3.7 yards per carry average.

    Many people would like to believe that things will be much better in 2013 and that could be true as it would be difficult to be as bad at running the football as the Steelers were this season.

    But it is just as likely that the Steelers could have a repeat performance of their rushing woes in 2013.

    Thatís simply due to personnel.

    Currently the Steelers only have one running back under contract and thatís Baron Batch.

    Rashard Mendenhall is an unrestricted free agent, both Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer are restricted free agents and Chris Rainey was released following his arrest in Florida.

    Mendenhall likely wonít be re-signed, while it is all but certain that both Dwyer and Redman will be tendered contracts.

    But even with Dwyer and Redman in the mix for 2013, the Steelers will still be missing a capable feature back and thatís a problem.

    Steelersí general manager commented last week that the running back situation was unacceptable; leading you to believe that there would be changes upcoming.

    ďWhere we were in the running game last year was indicative of the talent at the position,Ē said Colbert. ďThat group of players didnít produce the way we anticipated they would.Ē

    So how do the Steelers improve at the position?

    Thereís free agency, but that is all but doubtful. The running back position is very thin and they wonít be shelling out the money for a Reggie Bush or a Steven Jackson type of runner.

    That leaves the draft, which is also thin on talent this year.

    Give the needs the Steelers have at other positions, it is doubtful that they will be able to nab Giovani Bernard or Eddie Lacy in the first round, as both could be off the board before the Steelers pick at No. 17.

    But the Steelers did surprise people four years ago by taking Mendenhall in the first round, so anything is possible.

    If they wait until later in the draft to address the need that means reaching on a project, but we have seen time and time again that later round running backs have been successful. But that means getting the right guy.

    The rest of my Top 10 backs look like this: Marcus Lattimore, Joseph Randle, Jawan Jamison, Johnathan Franklin, Andre Ellington, Montee Ball, Stepfan Taylor and Kenjon Barner. Some of these guys just arenít good fits for the Steelers system.

    But the Steelers need the right guy to improve on the ground.

    Given their salary cap situation parlayed with other holes to fill, getting that type of feature back may not be as easy as people may think it may be.

    If they donít go running back early in the draft, donít be surprised if the Steelers once again struggle running the football in 2013.

    http://cityofchampionssports.com/201...s-bad-in-2013/

  9. #9
    I am still unconvinced that a "feature back" is necessarily a wise investment...

    While I think Chris Ivory is good, the fact that he remains restricted, in addition to our cap problems, could make it more difficult to sign him...

    I still believe that a healthy offensive line will make the difference, regardless of who is carrying the ball...when healthy, the O-Line was good enough to have both Dwyer and Redman run for more than 100 yards...

    Another complementary back...like Felix Jones, for example (if he's still fast!), might be doable...the RBs still need to be used in the proper situations...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slapstick View Post
    I am still unconvinced that a "feature back" is necessarily a wise investment...

    While I think Chris Ivory is good, the fact that he remains restricted, in addition to our cap problems, could make it more difficult to sign him...

    I still believe that a healthy offensive line will make the difference, regardless of who is carrying the ball...when healthy, the O-Line was good enough to have both Dwyer and Redman run for more than 100 yards...

    Another complementary back...like Felix Jones, for example (if he's still fast!), might be doable...the RBs still need to be used in the proper situations...

    I agree. Just give me a back that's committed to staying in shape, hard working, a little athletic, and smart. But don't put a premium on the position unless there's another AP out there. I'd draft AP in a heartbeat, otherwise, go for a FA or late round pickup.

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