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2017 Offseason Questions: What Can Depth RBs Contribute?

The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: What sort of contributions will the depth running backs other than James Conner contribute this season on offense?

One thing that we have learned over the years is that when Le’Veon Bell is healthy, he rarely comes off the field. There have been plenty of games in which he has only missed a couple of snaps, even when he had a backup the quality of the likes of LeGarrette Blount or DeAngelo Williams.

Neither of them are here now, however. Instead, they drafted Pittsburgh running back James Conner to become his backup. But his recent hamstring injury that has had him sidelined since rookie minicamp got me to wondering about the other running backs on the roster.

I’m hesitant to even put a name down in pen because I don’t want to assume that anybody is safe to make the team right now other than Bell and Conner, who is a rookie third-round pick. Fitzgerald Toussaint has been here for a couple of years, but hasn’t done—or been asked to do—much.

The Steelers also signed former Chiefs running back Knile Davis in the offseason, but the quality of his portfolio is in the return game, and not as a running back. While I acknowledge that yards per carry hardly paints a full picture, it would be impossible to dismiss his 3.2-yard career average on 250 carries over four years.

So I’m not putting his name placard over his locker just yet, he’s getting the tape-and-marker treatment until we get to September. But no matter who is on the roster, history has shown that at some point they’re going to have to contribute. The third running back has had to play a role in every year of Bell’s career.

So whoever it is, what are they going to be able to contribute? Toussaint hasn’t necessarily impressed as a runner here, and Davis doesn’t have an impressive body of work. Could it even be possible that one of these lesser-known names has an opportunity to make the roster?

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