Training camp is now upon us, in case you have failed to take notice. The Pittsburgh Steelers reported to Latrobe on July 28, and began practicing the following day in preparation for their first preseason game on August 12, and eventually, for the 2016 regular season in April.
Every NFL season is like an investigation of sorts, with the offseason and preseason serving as the fact-finding portion, gathering the questions that are most prudent to ask in order to understand the story of the team in the current season. And it is in training camp that we really begin to start finding the answers to those questions.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in training camp and the preseason looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they head into a regular season in which they are among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: Will Daryl Richardson be the third running back when all backs are healthy and active?
I think it goes without saying that third-year running back Daryl Richardson was the highlight of the Steelers’ running back on Friday night, carrying the ball 11 times for 44 yards, and adding two receptions for 16 yards. Of course, he was the only player to get more than two carries on the night as well, but it sort of felt as though there was a reason for that.
There has been a lot of buzz about the former 2012 seventh-round draft pick of the Rams, who has looked impressive in camp when provided opportunities, whether in the run game, the passing game, or as a pass protector in the backfield. And he did a bit of all of that in the game against the Lions as well.
In 25 snaps, Richardson got 13 touches, plus he also get an opportunity to return a kickoff, which he did for 25 yards. In contrast, Fitzgerald Toussaint got just two touches—two carries for eight yards—in 17 snaps of action. Brandon Brown-Dukes also got two touches late in the game.
While much of the focus over the course of the offseason, particularly after news of Le’Veon Bell’s suspension first broke, has been on Toussaint, it should not be a foregone conclusion that he has sealed up a roster spot if Bell’s suspension is overturned, or otherwise once he returns.
Richardson is presenting a legitimate challenge to the third-year back, who started both of the Steelers’ postseason games in 2015 and scored a touchdown in the process, though he has become best known for the costly fumble that followed.
I expect Toussaint and Richardson to get the bulk of the workload at the running back position over the course of the next three preseason games. Pending news of the status of Bell’s appeal, they could either be competing for pecking order or a roster spot. The loser could still go to the practice squad if they are not claimed.