Stevan Ridley has spent most of the season watching from the sidelines, rarely even seeing any carries, but an injury to James Conner is giving the third-string running back more opportunities to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And he is hoping to see a lot of work on Sunday against the New England Patriots, against him he says that it’s personal.
Bill Belichick and New England drafted Ridley as a third-round pick back in 2011. He was a rotational player that season, averaging 5.1 yards per carry with 441 rushing yards, but he had a 1200-yard, 12-touchdown season in his second year. Even in a reduced role in 2013, he still rushed for nearly 800 yards with seven touchdowns.
But things changed in his relationship with the team immediately after he suffered a torn ACL in 2014. He told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that after that they never even broached the topic of a second contract.
“When you take a blow like that, you can see how grimy the business can be, it’s tough, man”, he said. “It’s tough”. Earlier, he said that “since the injury and not going back and how I was dealt with personally, it was bad business. That’s just how I feel”.
The Patriots have a long history of letting running backs go, of course, the most recent being Dion Lewis, who similarly expressed frustrations with Belichick’s seeming lack of interest in making any type of effort to retain him. LeGarrette Blount would be another example from recent years. Blount helped the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2017, and Lewis’ Tennessee Titans beat New England earlier this year.
Now Ridley wants to be the next former Patriots running back to get a taste of revenge against a previous employer whom he believes did him wrong, and he may have the biggest grievance of the three, as he was a draft pick of theirs and a quality contributor. But they clearly have a philosophy about the running back position.
“I really don’t want to make this game out to be too much about me and them because we’re a team coming off three losses right now”, Ridley said. “Of course I have a little extra edge now, but as a locker room, no one is happy around here. It’s going to be fun Sunday. They’re coming off an L. We’re coming off three. Everyone is going to be hungry and ready to play, not just me”.
How much work will he actually see on Sunday? He only got five carries this past game against the Oakland Raiders, which was his first work since Week 10 against the Carolina Panthers. That was on a short week and the team wanted to give Conner time off.