The 2017 season is over and in the books, the Pittsburgh Steelers coming up far short of their goal. While they had a regular season record of 13-3, they went 0-1 in the postseason, and that will be the legacy of this previous campaign.
The task at hand is working toward improving that postseason record and assuring that it has a zero in the loss column instead of the win column. We can take a position-by-position look at how they can work toward that goal based on their personnel.
Position: Running Back
Total Positional Figure: 5
Le’Veon Bell: It’s not unreasonable to say that Le’Veon Bell is the best in the game. He may not have had his best season—though he did have his healthiest, and he also scored the most that he has—but even he conceded that some early struggles may be attributable to the absence of an offseason.
The obvious discussion around Bell is what comes next. He is a pending unrestricted free agent and both sides say they want a deal done, but it’s easy to imagine it doesn’t happen. Most likely, they will tag him, and we’ll see what happens after that.
James Conner: James Conner is currently coming back from a torn MCL that he suffered late in his rookie season, but he sounds as though he is already doing well and will be ready in plenty of time. He showed some explosiveness as a ball carrier, but he has to round out his game substantially. He told the team’s website that he wants to spend time working on the passing game, both as a receiver and pass protector.
Fitzgerald Toussaint: The Steelers have kept Fitzgerald Toussaint around for a few years now, but will he continue to hold on for much longer? He actually started the season on the practice squad, but he swapped places with Terrell Watson, who had some success as a short-yardage back. They likely seek an upgrade here.
Stevan Ridley: That upgrade might just be Stevan Ridley, a veteran who was signed after Conner was injured. He showed well in the final two games of the regular season, demonstrating quickness and hinting at a complete skill set, which should be the case for a veteran.
James Summers: An undrafted rookie last year out of East Carolina, James Summers is a bigger back at 6’3” and 210 listed pounds. He is a converted quarterback. The team brought him in for a tryout in December after Conner was injured. He spent the offseason and a brief time on the practice squad with the Cardinals in 2017.
Offseason Strategy: Add Depth
It would be a surprise turn of events if the Steelers do not have Bell under contract in 2018. Should that happen, of course, then finding a starting running back instantly becomes the top priority of the offseason behind inside linebacker.
Assuming that Bell and Conner are both back and healthy, it would still make sense to add another body, either in free agency or in the draft, and ideally somebody who has a skill set that makes him usable on third downs in the passing game.