To be clear, it’s the market, not the running backs, who are slow. At least hypothetically.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have over the course of the offseason taken the following actions in addressing their running back position, in order: 1) signed Fitzgerald Toussaint to an exclusive rights tender; 2) applied the franchise tag on Le’Veon Bell; 3) allowed DeAngelo Williams to hit free agency; 4) released Karlos Williams.
There are several first-year running backs on the roster during the offseason, of course, including a couple that spent some period of time on the practice squad last season, but nobody who is going to be likely to play a factor during the year for Pittsburgh, and so are not included here.
Even if we assume that Toussaint will make the roster again which is not, I think, what the Steelers are looking to do, there is clearly a hole on the depth chart here, and as time goes on it becomes less and less likely that they are leaning toward another union with Williams, who has dealt with wear-and-tear injuries in two of the past three seasons now.
If it were up to me—and it just so happens that it is not—I would acquire a veteran from those remaining on the free agent market in addition to drafting a running back as early as the third round in order to fill out my depth chart behind Bell. And I hope that this is the course of action that the Steelers end up taking.
The Steelers are not going to go out and get Adrian Peterson, of course, nor will a reunion with LeGarrette Blount be in the cards, even if it were desired. The money would likely not make sense for Pittsburgh. Jamaal Charles can probably be dismissed as well considering his injures and the number of games Steelers backups have had to start in recent years.
There are some names on the market who I believe had a disadvantageous 2016 season, either due to their snap, their role, or simply a poor run-blocking offensive line, that could be entertained as options here, and they start with a couple of Giants.
New York did not have a quality offensive line by any stretch of the imagination last season when it comes to the running game, and all their running backs suffered for it. Bobby Rainey at least had a glimmer of life from time to time as essentially the fourth or fifth ball carrier on the depth chart. Rashad Jennings has been successful in the past, though he is 32.
One interesting name could be Brandon Bolden of the Patriots, who pretty much did not play last year while being buried on the depth chart. He has had some success in the past, however, as a running and receiving option.
Two more names I’d like to put out there are perhaps the two most attractive, and one of them has been here before. Several of you have mentioned Bennie Cunningham of the Rams, who for obvious reasons has not seen a lot of playing time. Jordan Todman would make sense to me, but it wouldn’t appear that Pittsburgh is interested in bringing him back. After all, Toussaint played over him in 2015. But he does offer a lot more as a returner.