The Pittsburgh Steelers have wrapped things up in minicamp and put an end to their spring practices, which means that we are officially into the dead zone, the slowest time of the year for football news and general activity, the time between the end of spring drills in mid-June to the opening of training camps in late July.
Before we get there, we are going to take a look at how the team’s roster has evolved since prior to the draft, the last time that we broke down the Steelers by position, and obviously a lot has changed since they have fleshed out their 90-man roster.
Position: Running Back
Total Positional Figure: 6
Le’Veon Bell: Le’Veon Bell is pretty good, and he figures to still be pretty good even while he continues to recuperate from torn a MCL and PCL in his knee. He has made brief appearances at the start of OTAs and in minicamp, but will spend the downtime until training camp working on his own, rehabbing furiously. I expect him to be virtually like new for the start of the season.
DeAngelo Williams: From all reports, DeAngelo Williams still looks every bit the player they signed last year, including the lost weight staying off. There has been talk of getting him more playing time even while Bell is healthy, maybe even with some looks with both on the field, which they used sparsely last year.
Fitzgerald Toussaint: Sort of the runt of the litter when the regular season started last year, Fitzgerald Toussaint has worked his way up since then, to the point where it’s hard to imagine him not being the clear frontrunner for the third and presumably final running back roster spot.
Daryl Richardson: The Steelers signed Daryl Richardson as one of three running backs added as Reserve/Future players, and he’s the only one still around. Also the only one who had some positive NFL film. He’s more than a camp body.
Cameron Stingily: Originally signed as a tryout player last year, Cameron Stingily suffered a knee injury in the preseason that ended his year. So he decided to try out again, this time dropping a couple dozen pounds. The team liked him last year. If he can show any semblance of speed, he has an even better chance of sticking around.
Brandon Brown-Dukes: A 5’8”, 200-pounder out of Mercyhurst, the rookie tryout signing Brandon Brown-Dukes turned some heads and got himself a contract to the Steelers’ 90-man roster. He’s gotten his foot in the door, and that’s how these things start.
Abou Toure: After Williams’ injury, Abou Toure was added to the Steelers’ practice squad in January. Another big back like Rajion Neal, Toure was signed as a rookie minicamp invite by the Colts, then spent time on the Cardinals’ practice squad. He was given a Reserve/Future contract as well. He was released in early May the same time Mike Adams was released.
Rajion Neal: An undrafted player in 2014, Rajion Neal was signed to the practice squad after Toussaint was promoted to the 53-man roster. He’s bounced around four other practice squads previously. He was signed to a Reserve/Future contract after the season, but was released in part to make room for Stingily and Brown-Dukes.
Notes and Camp Outlook: Quick note, running back Christian Powell signed as a rookie undrafted free agent, but he only spent nine days on the roster. He was waived after the Steelers added Stingily and Brown-Dukes as tryout players.
While Toussaint should be regarded as the frontrunner to land the third running back spot on the roster, I would not discount the competition, perhaps Richardson especially. All of these players, however, including Toussaint, are also eligible for the practice squad, it is worth pointing out, and at least one of them will be there, assuming that they don’t carry four running backs, which has not necessarily been out of the ordinary.
The loss of Will Johnson, whom they viewed as a potential ball carrier—he had a rushing touchdown in the opener last year—could help persuade them to carry four if four show they are deserving.