The calendar is quickly flipping through the month of April, and each day brings us closer and closer to the 2015 NFL Draft. By now, teams should have by and large accomplished everything that they have set out to do in terms of free agent roster building, which means that their sole focus is now preparing for the draft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally been able to clear the Troy Polamalu hurdle and settle into their pre-draft roster. We have broken down the Steelers’ moves at each position in free agency in terms of re-signings, free agent additions and subtractions, cuts, and retirements, so now we begin the final process: determining draft needs.
The second position up for examination heading into the draft will be the running back position, where the Steelers will be facing a dilemma unique to this season. Their star All-Pro running back, Le’Veon Bell, will begin the 2015 season facing a three-game suspension. Even if Bell’s appeal is successful, it will likely remain at at least two games.
With that partially in mind, the Steelers sought to address the backup running back position in earnest again, for the second year in a row, and this time they came away with a much older, but more high character player in DeAngelo Williams.
Williams, the 32-year old former first-round draft pick of the Panthers, spent his entire career in Carolina until he was recently released. He made one visit and quickly signed with the Steelers on a two-year, $4 million contract.
But he is coming off a season in which he was plagued with a variety of ailments, which caused him to miss the majority of the year, so there are legitimate questions about his durability, both in terms of carrying the load for a stretch of games at the beginning of the season as well as for the duration of the season as a whole.
Behind Bell and Williams are Dri Archer and Josh Harris, two second-year players, the former a third-round draft pick and the latter undrafted. Neither of them found much success during their rookie seasons in limited carries, and it is difficult to project what type of impact they will have going forward.
For Archer, however, it is clear that, due to his physical limitations, he will never serve in the role of the backup running back. He is a niche player who will, the hope is, contribute on special teams.
There is a great deal that we don’t know about Harris yet, but in my observations, I felt that he left yards out on the field that the offensive line went out and got for him. It’s such a small sample size, however, that there is nothing conclusive to be said.
With the quality and depth of the running back position in this draft, however, it would certainly behoove the Steelers to address their need here by the end of the third day of the draft, if at the very least to have somebody compete with Harris. The loser can spend the year on the practice squad, and both may end up on the roster in 2016 if Williams is gone.
The 2015 draft offers an interesting combination of future need projection and present quality of opportunity. Running back may not be an obvious need for the 2015 season, but it will be shortly, and this draft is simply a very good opportunity to go and get one. Plus it wouldn’t hurt to have Williams in there to show a young back the ropes, if that back isn’t Harris.