The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.
Question: Do the Steelers have enough skill at the running back position right now to get by without Le’Veon Bell beyond 2018?
I think this is one of the broader questions that we will be seeking answers to as the year unfolds, given the high probability that running back Le’Veon Bell will be wearing a different uniform in 2019. Do the Steelers have the talent on the roster right now that can develop by 2019 to keep them legitimately competitive for a Super Bowl in the immediate future?
It goes without saying that this question is centrally rooted from two players in particular, those being the running backs that they have drafted over the course of the past two years. James Conner is entering his second season after the Steelers selected him in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, while Jaylen Samuels comes to the team this year out of NC State as a fifth-round selection.
Conner was a generally effective runner in his limited snaps, but he did not get the opportunity to show much else during his rookie season, in large part because of Bell’s extensive workload, but also due to certain assignment issues he had, and ultimately a torn MCL that ended his season prematurely.
He appears to be fully recovered from that injury and in truly excellent conditioning for year two, however, and both he and Samuels drew high praise from their teammates for their work during spring drills. Not that it’s overly difficult for a running back to look impressive without pads on.
There was legitimate thought even this past draft that the Steelers would look to add a running back, such as Derrius Guice, very early in the draft, well before they knew for certain that no long-term deal would be completed in 2018. Of course, they chose to pass on him in the first round, and all other running backs until Samuels in the fifth.
Now with Bell likely to at least test the open market, how will they address the position going forward? How much does that depend upon how Conner and Samuels look this year?