I have over the course of the past several seasons turned to a series of articles around this time of year in which I looked to explore the issues and questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers during the upcoming season and trying to identify the range of possibilities in which any given scenario can end.
I started out with a dual series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take and switched last season to the Devil’s Advocate series. In an attempt to find a more streamlined solution with a title more suited to the actual endeavor, we are introducing a simple Buy Or Sell segment exploring whether the position statement is likely to be worth investing in as an idea.
The range of topics will be wide, from the specific to the general, exploring broad long-term possibilities to the immediate future of particular players. I will make an argument for why a concept should be bought into as well as one that can be sold, and you can share your thoughts on which is the more compelling case while offering your own.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will keep four running backs on the 53-man roster in 2018.
There are a couple of good sales pitches for making this argument this time around. For one thing, you are beginning to set the groundwork for life after Le’Veon Bell, provided that he doesn’t work out a long-term deal with the Steelers by a little over a month from now. Having a stable full of running backs already on-hand gives you better options with which to move forward.
Another big factor here is rookie Jaylen Samuels and the fact that the Steelers appear to be looking at him as a versatile player capable of playing multiple positions. He might not get a true ‘slash’ designation as WR/RB Dri Archer got, but his versatility could win the position an extra slot.
It’s also valuable to have a variety of youth and veteran leadership. James Conner could be a strong number two back, but he has 32 touches in his career. Samuels obviously has none. It wouldn’t hurt to have somebody like Stevan Ridley in the room with them—also a player that you already know can pass protect.
Seeing four true running backs on the roster is just not that common anymore with the increased focus on the passing game, and with a lead back like Bell who can do everything and rarely has to come off the field, there’s no need to take a committee approach. Your third down, receiving, short yardage, and goal line backs are all the same player.
Add in the fact that they already have a fullback to add to the total in the running back room, and the reality that none of these players appear to be in line for a major role on special teams, and it’s going to be very difficult, to put it mildly, to find room to keep three backs behind Bell when he projects to play 90 percent of the snaps anyway.