Steeler Nation , it’s no big news that the Steelers need some quality experienced running back depth. We all seen the effect the loss of RB Le’Veon Bell had on the Steelers offense at the end of the 2014 season and into the playoffs.
The Steelers also must be prepared for the suspension that Bell more than likely will face at the beginning of the 2015 NFL season. Bell is expected to be suspended at least two games and could be suspended up to four games.
Now that we have the bad news out of the way, lets get into the good news.
The good news is that the free agent market is flooded with quality running backs this off-season. The Steelers should be able to solve their running back depth problem relatively easily and cheap considering the surplus of running backs available should create a buyers’ market.
Some of last seasons best runners are available on the market. DeMarco Murray who led the NFL last season is at the top of the list. Justin Forsett who ran for 1,266 yards and a 5.4 yard average while catching 44 passes for 263 yards is also on the list. Quality starters such as Mark Ingram,Ryan Mathews, C.J. Spiler and Frank Gore are all free agents.
Although none of the above mentioned running backs are likely in the running for the Steelers to sign, the fact that they are available should lower the price of the back the Steelers do sign.
Below is a list of potential free agent running backs in no certain order that may or may not be on the Steelers radar …
Roy Helu: Height: 5-11 Weight: 215 Age: 26
Roy Helu is an intriguing player. He has preformed well when giving the chance in Washington but has not been able to crack the starting line up , with only 5 starts in 4 seasons. He has a career average of 4.4 yards a run and 7 career TD runs. Helu excels at catching the ball out of the back field with 42 catches for 472 yards and a 11.2 yard average per catch in 2014 . He finished the season tied with Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell for the most receptions by a RB of 20-plus yards with 10. Helu has 129 career catches for 1152 yds and 3 touchdowns. He is also a decent pass blocker. Helu would be an up grade to the Steelers running back depth.
Steven Jackson: Height: 6-2 Weight: 240 Age: 31
Steven Jackson was once considered one of the best all around running backs in the game. He reeled off 8 straight 1000 plus yard seasons between 2005 and 2012. His best season 2006, he ran for 1,528 yards a 4.4 yard average and 13 touchdowns.He caught 90 passes that same year for 806 yards and 3 touchdowns.Jackson is not what he once was after two down years in Atlanta but claims he has plenty left in the tank. He may be a great veteran mentor to the young Steelers backfield in a key back up role.
Pierre Thomas: Height: 5-11 Weight: 215 Age: 30
Pierre Thomas was recently cut by the cap strapped New Orleans Saints. Thomas has never been the main running back but has fit in well as a role player with the ability to start if need be. He started 38 times in his 8 seasons with the Saints. He ran for a career total of 3,745 yards, a 4.6 yard average and a total of 28 rushing touchdowns. Thomas is a good pass catcher out of the backfield catching a career total of 327 passes for 2,608 yards and 12 touchdowns. His best receiving season was in 2013 catching 77 passes for 513 yards and 3 touchdowns. Pierre Thomas is a veteran back that knows his role and could fit in well as a situation player.
Darren McFadden: Height: 6-1 Weight: 218 Age: 27
Darren McFadden was once considered a potential franchise running back. He was drafted in the 2008 NFL draft in the 1st round with the fourth overall pick by the Oakland Raiders. Although he has shown flashes, he has never lived up to these high expectations. His best season was in 2010 when he ran for 1,157 yards and a 5.2 yards average and 7 touchdowns. He also caught 47 passes that same season for 507 yards and 3 touchdowns. His last 4 seasons have disappointed, averaging below 4 yards a carry in each. A change of scenery may do him good
Knowshon Moreno: Height: 5-11 Weight: 218 Age: 27
Knowshon Moreno has been good when healthy but staying healthy seems to be a problem as of late. He has had 2 ACL knee surgeries. Suffering a torn ACL to end his season in 2014. He also missed a portion of 2014 with a dislocated elbow. Moreno’s best season was in 2013 when he had 1,038 yards rushing, a 4.3 yard average and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 60 passes for 548 yards and 3 touchdowns. If healthy Knowshon Moreno could provide quality depth.
Reggie Bush: Height: 6-0 Weight: 205 Age: 30
Reggie Bush has been a case of more hype than production for the most part of his career, but he has had some good seasons none the less.His best season rushing came in 2011 with the Miami Dolphins running for 1,086 yards and a 5 yard average with 6 rushing touchdowns. Bush is known to be a good receiver out of the backfield with 466 career catches for 3,489 yards and 18 receiving touchdowns. He does most of his damage in the open field. Reggie Bush may be past his prime but still can help a team in the right situation. The big question is are the Steelers the right situation?
Ahmad Bradshaw: Height: 5-10 Weight: 217 Age: 28
Ahmad Bradshaw has had series of foot, neck, and leg injuries but has proven to be a hard-nosed runner when healthy. His best season was in 2010 when he ran for 1,235 yards and a 4.5 yard average ,with 8 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 47 passes that season for 314 yards. The big question is have all the leg and foot injuries taken their toll?He is a more than a capable back if healthy but at this point that’s a huge if.
Chris Johnson: Height: 5-11 Weight: 203 Age: 29
Chris Johnson was once among the most elite runners in the NFL. He had a monster season in 2009 rushing for 2,006 yards and a 5.6 yard average with 14 rushing touchdowns. Johnson also had 50 catches for 503 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is still a threat in the open field but his best days are behind him. He may still be able to help a team if put in the right role.
Ben Tate: Height: 5-10 Weight: 220 Age: 26
The Steelers are a little familiar with Tate having signed him late for the playoffs last season. Whether the Steelers liked what they saw is another thing altogether. Tate had some decent seasons with the Texans, mostly as a back up. He started the 2014 season with the Browns but became unhappy and cut later in the season.He caught on with the Vikings but was cut again before the season ended. He ended up with the Steelers after Bell’s injury heading into the playoffs. Tate’s best season came with the Texans in 2011 when he ran for 942 yards , a 5.4 yard average and 4 touchdowns.
Stevan Ridley: Height: 5-11 Weight: 220 Age: 26
Stevan Ridley is coming back from a torn ACL he suffered early in 2014. He is more of a power back than any thing and is not a threat receiving out of the backfield.His best season was in 2012. He ran for 1,263 yards , a 4.4 yard average with 12 rushing touchdowns. Ridley has had problems fumbling in the past. He may come cheap for someone willing to take a chance on a back recovering from an injury.
Shane Vereen: Height: 5-10 Weight: 205 Age: 26
Shane Vereen had his best season in 2014 rushing for 391 yards and a 4.1 yard average with 2 touchdowns. Vereen’s biggest asset is pass catching out of the backfield were he caught 52 passes for 447 yards and 3 touchdowns last season.
DeAngelo Williams: Height: 5-9 Weight: 215 Age: 31
DeAngelo Williams was recently cut from the Carolina Panthers after a very disappointing 2014 season. Williams best season was in 2008. He ran for 1,515 yards, a 5.5 yard average and 18 rushing touchdowns. He is decent catching out of the backfield with 178 career catches for 1,621 yards and 7 touchdowns. Williams has failed to reach 1000 yards rushing the past 5 seasons and only ran for 219 yards last season with a 3.5 yard average despite 6 starts. One has to wonder if he has anything left.