The Pittsburgh Steelers entered this league year with 12 players scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency, and another three players who would be restricted free agents. They ended up retaining five of those unrestricted free agents in addition to tendering all three of their restricted free agents.
Pittsburgh also added help from outside of the organization at running back, but suffered two free agency losses, one to another team and the other to retirement. The Steelers also released two players, while five of their unrestricted free agents remain unsigned.
The organization has been clear throughout recent weeks that the organization has essentially wrapped up all meaningful free agent activities. Perhaps there may be a modest addition or re-signing or two in the secondary between now and the draft, but now is a good time to take a look back and see where each position started at the beginning of the process and where it is now leading up to the draft.
Position: Running Back
Total Positional Figure: 4
Offseason additions: 1
Offseason losses: 0
Le’Veon Bell: They say a player’s biggest jump in development is typically from year one to year two, and that was certainly the case for Le’Veon Bell, who went from a solid rookie season to an All-Pro campaign in 2014. He became the feature of the offense, setting a new franchise record in yards from scrimmage and becoming arguably the most complete back in the league. Let’s hope the Steelers don’t run the wheels off of him.
Dri Archer: The slash player Dri Archer will for now be categorized as a running back. He logged the most snaps of all running backs on the roster in the Steelers’ playoff loss, although most of them came in the slot. His rookie season was a disappointment, but the coaches are saying all the right things about turning him around this year.
Josh Harris: A rookie undrafted free agent, he didn’t get many opportunities to impress after being called up from the practice squad, but the Steelers see some potential. It will be interesting to see if he makes the roster, and if they add a running back in the draft as competition.
Players Not Retained:
Ben Tate: Veteran Ben Tate was signed after Le’Veon Bell’s injury in the regular season finale and started the playoff game, but his snaps trailed off after he fumbled on the opening drive. He was on his third different that that year for a reason, and they showed no interest in bringing him back.
DeAngelo Williams: The Steelers are taking their third stab at finding Bell a veteran backup, and hopefully DeAngelo Williams is the best of both worlds. He has the resume and the personality for the role he’ll be asked to fulfill. Now it’s just a matter of whether or not his body will hold up after going through an injury-plagued 2014.
Notes: The Steelers signed LeGarrette Blount to a two-year contract last year, but he was released mid-season after creating issues in the locker room. Harris was called up to replace him, and the rookie finished the season on the 53-man roster. Archer is officially listed as a WR/RB on the team’s depth chart.