On Friday, the Pittsburgh Steelers effectively added an experienced running back to their roster to backup starter Le’Veon Bell when they signed LeGarrette Blount, but they likely will need to add another one to help on third downs between now and the start of training camp.
While Blount does have 579 carries to his credit during his first four seasons in the league, he’s pretty much just a two down running back. In fact, in the 56 regular season games that he’s played in so far during his career, Blount has yet to record a third down reception and has only carried the ball a total of 23 times on third down.
Last season as a rookie, Bell recorded 45 receptions and that’s nearly double the 23 that Blount has registered during his first four years in the league.
The Steelers will more than likely draft a running back in May that has experience as a pass catcher out of the backfield, but they still might need one more experienced player to help out in that area initially in 2014. That player very well could wind up being LaRod Stephens-Howling, who is still recovering from the knee injury that he suffered last year in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans.
Currently, Stephens-Howling is an unsigned unrestricted free agent. In addition, he is still not even seven months removed from his injury. So, until he’s cleared to practice, there’s no real reason to rush to re-sign him. It should be noted, however, that the Minnesota Vikings were recently reported as keeping close tabs on the Pittsburgh product as he continues his rehab and that makes since being as Kirby Wilson, formerly of the Steelers, is now their new running backs coach.
In the meantime, the Steelers will likely address the running back position in the draft and sign a few undrafted free agent bodies to get them through the OTA and mini camp practices. Come June 2nd, they will receive an additional $8 million in salary cap space once the release of linebacker LaMarr Woodley becomes official and at that point can re-sign Stephens-Howling, who will then be nearly nine months removed from his injury.
While it’s still early on in the offseason, it’s not hard to speculate that the Steelers will likely want to carry at least four running backs on their 53 man roster in 2014. We know that Bell, Blount and a draft pick will most likely wind up being three of those four players and I’m willing to bet they expect Stephens-Howling to be the fourth. If not him, I expect another third down capable free agent back will be added for the minimum after June 2nd.