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2017 Steelers Pre-Training Camp Roster Review: Running Back

The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was very shortly after the 2016 season ended. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed, and, in a rarity, this actually applies to literally every position on the roster, including the quarterbacks and specialists.

We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, however, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.

Position: Running Back

Total Positional Figure: 8

Additions: 4

Deletions: 4

Players Retained:

Le’Veon Bell: There is no question about his ability. But that is about the only thing that doesn’t raise questions. Will he sign a long-term contract? Will he stay healthy? Will he bounce back from this groin injury and be the same player? Will he write another rap song?

Fitzgerald Toussaint: He is the only other last man standing from last year among halfbacks. He received such little playing time that he was rusty when he did get in. He does have an outside shot of making the roster for the third year in a row.

Roosevelt Nix: The fullback goes here because there’s really nobody else to discuss with him. Nix dealt with a back injury early in the year, and that’s the only question surrounding him, except maybe, will he catch a few more balls this year?

Brandon Brown-Dukes: A rookie undrafted free agent last year, he has bounced on and off the 90-man and practice-squad roster so many times that it’s difficult to keep track. While he was released this offseason, he is back once again.

Players Added:

James Conner: The third-round draft pick, the Steelers are hoping Conner can be the number two behind Bell. He didn’t get to show much during the spring due to a hamstring injury, but he will have all eyes on him during training camp.

Knile Davis: Far from an accomplished runner as far as veterans go, Davis’ career rushing average is terrible, but he is hoping to turn it around with the Steelers. His surest path to a roster spot, however, is to win the kick return job.

Trey Williams: A smaller back, Williams was an efficient runner in college, averaging 6.6 yards per carry. But he didn’t get a lot of carries. He displaced some other running backs on the Steelers’ offseason roster.

Terrell Watson: Watson, too, displaced some other running backs, so the team obviously thinks they have more to offer. Watson is the opposite, however, at six-foot, over 230 pounds. He rushed for nearly 6000 yards with almost 80 touchdowns in college. He may become a camp favorite for many.

Players Lost:

DeAngelo Williams: We already know this backstory. Williams wasn’t re-signed after two years with the team, but he recently said he still wants to play at 34. Will he get signed in training camp, and might the Steelers call?

Karlos Williams: Unfortunately for big brother Vince, Karlos Williams really seems to be struggling to get his career in order. The Steelers gave him a couple of chances but he keeps getting suspended.

Gus Johnson: Spent time on the practice squad last year, was released after drafting Conner.

Dreamius Smith: Spent time on the practice squad as well, and was released 10 days after Johnson with no corresponding move at running back.

Notes and Camp Outlook: 

Rushel Shell is another name who came and went. He was signed as a rookie undrafted free agent but was released a few weeks ago to bring back Brandon Brown-Dukes.

Bell is probably going to get a lot of time off during training camp and the preseason, so that should give Conner and Davis all the reps that they can handle. Toussaint as well. Will any of the other names emerge from the shadows?

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