NFL Draft

Study: What The Steelers Look For In Running Backs

With the draft only a couple weeks away, we’re going to revisit one of my favorite topics of the offseason. Continuing what we’ve done the past two seasons, we’ll take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft trends position-by-position and the type of player they look for at each spot.

This is actually the first time we’ve broken down the running backs. There hadn’t been enough of a sample size for me to feel comfortable with it in the past but after selecting another back in 2017, James Conner, I think we have enough to go off of, even if it isn’t as many as other positions.

To be upfront, I’m not going to include Dri Archer and Chris Rainey in this study. They weren’t true running backs and Archer was really only that in title; they wouldn’t even let him participate in backs on backers. That ain’t a running back, my friend. We’ll list each RB they’ve drafted, five in the Mike Tomlin era, and see what trends we find.

We’ll use their numbers from their official Combine workout. We’ll only use Pro Day numbers from the verifiable events like broad and vertical jump. We’ll take the higher of Combine or Pro Day for those types of events.

2017: James Conner

Height: 6’1/2
Weight: 233
40 Time: 4.65
Bench: 20
Vert: 29
Broad: 9’5″

2013: Le’Veon Bell

Height: 6’1/3
Weight: 230
40 Time: 4.6
Bench: 24
Vert: 31.5
Broad: 9’10”
Short Shuttle: 4.24
Three Cone: 6.75

2011: Baron Batch

Height: 5’9/5
Weight: 207
Bench: 24
Vert: 39
Broad: 10’6″

2010: Jonathan Dwyer

Height: 5’11/2
Weight: 229
40 Time: 4.68
Bench: 15
Vert: 33
Broad: 8’11
Short Shuttle: 4.67
Three Cone: 7.56

2008: Rashard Mendenhall

Height: 5’10/1
Weight: 225
40 Time: 4.45
Bench: 26
Vert: 33.5
Broad: 9’9
Short Shuttle: 4.18

Here is the criteria we’ll be using.

Height: 5’10+ (four of five drafted)
Weight: 225+ (four of five)
40 Time: Sub 4.65 (four of five)
Bench: 20 (four of five)
Vert: 31+ (four of five)
Broad: 9’5″+ (four of five)

From the Combine, here are the backs who met every category.

Name Height Weight 40 Time Bench Vert Broad
Nick Chubb 5’10/7 227 4.52 29 38.5 10’8″

A very exclusive list with Chubb the only player to check every box. But since that list is small, and there are clearly exceptions to each rule, here are the backs who miss in only one category. Next to their name is the area where they missed.

Chris Warren/Texas: 40 Time (4.69)
Kamryn Pettway/Auburn: 40 Time (4.74)
Ryan Nall/Oregon State: Bench (15)
Royce Freeman/Oregon: Bench (17)
Kallen Ballage/Arizona St: Bench (15)
Bo Scarbrough/Alabama: Bench (14)
Lavon Coleman/Washington: Weight (215)
Saquon Barkley/Penn State: Broad (DNP)
Jaylen Samuels/NC State: Bench (18)

Finally, here are the players who didn’t meet the criteria at all, missing in at least half (three) categories.

Akrum Wadley/Iowa: Height (5’9/7), Weight (194), Bench (12)
Mark Walton/Miami (FL): Height (5’9/5), Weight (202), Bench (18)
Kyle Hicks/TCU: Height (5’9/5), Weight (204), Bench (13)
Chase Edmonds/Fordham: Height (5’9/1), Weight (205), Bench (19)
Jordan Wilkins/Ole Miss: Weight (216), 40 Time (4.71), Bench (16)
John Kelly/Tennessee: Height (5’9/7), Weight (216), Bench (15)

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