The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are in a critical portion of the offseason in which the preseason takes center stage, where some of the biggest and most important questions get answered, especially in terms of personnel.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Which running back, or running backs, would you keep on the 53-man roster behind Le’Veon Bell and James Conner?
The Steelers have some unusual circumstances at a few different positions this season that allow for the possibility that they may carry four running backs on their 53-man roster, though they don’t have to. The point is, it’s a realistic possibility that we could see it happen, enough that I even had four running backs on my most recent 53-man roster prediction.
While it’s long been established that Le’Veon Bell and James Conner are going to be the number one and number two running backs this season, the Steelers have at least three other running backs that are legitimately competing for perhaps only one, but possibly two roster spots.
Among them are two veterans in Fitzgerald Toussaint and Stevan Ridley. Toussaint has been around for a few years with the team already and has looked strong as a runner and pass protector, even having a moment or two on kick returns. Ridley was only brought in late last year but had a good showing in the first preseason game before sitting out the last one with a groin injury.
Then there is rookie Jaylen Samuels, who was quiet in the first preseason game but had some bright spots last week, including breaking a few tackles. The thing that I observed most, however, was his extensive participation on special teams, which should usually be taken as a sign that the team wants him to claim a roster spot.
If Samuels continues to see the sort of special teams snaps that he has going forward, then I feel obligated to pencil him in for a roster spot, assuming that the team’s plan is to give him one, even if he ends up inactive (they did the same for Jonathan Dwyer most of his rookie year). Toussaint and Ridley are still battling. I’m pretty confident this will go down to the final preseason game.