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 already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
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: Are the Steelers looking for a number two running back in the draft?
With 10 picks currently available to them in the 2019 NFL Draft—provided that they don’t trade any of them away without replacing them—the Steelers have enough ammunition to address virtually every offensive and defensive position, with perhaps a pick left over to nab a kicker.
Given that reality, it’s more likely than not that the team does draft a running back, which will make it the third time in as many years after they used a third-round selection on James Conner in 2017 and then a fifth-round pick on Jaylen Samuels a year ago.
Conner ended up filling in for Le’Veon Bell in the starting lineup and made the role his own, rushing for nearly 1000 yards and adding almost 500 more through the air with 13 total touchdowns in the 13 games that he played, missing three due to a high ankle sprain.
Samuels ultimately emerged as the number two back behind Conner, surpassing veteran Stevan Ridley, who was not re-signed this offseason following two costly fumbles—one extremely costly, perhaps almost directly responsible for their not reaching the postseason.
Samuels did some nice things, but it’s unknown if they believe he can legitimately be a full-time number two running back who would actually be used with regularity in rotation with Conner, whom they spent more time giving opportunities for rest than they did Bell in the past.
It’s far from unreasonable to imagine the team selecting a running back perhaps as early as the third round, given the number of picks they have available to them, if they truly believed that he could fill that role and provide greater reliability should Conner suffer another injury. The Steelers know all too well how easily they could not have their starting running back available to them between him and Bell over the past six years.