We started this series with a little over two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Steelers had 15 primary players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this offseason and have re-signed a number of them, those being Ramon Foster, Tyson Alualu, Anthony Chickillo, Daniel McCullers, and Jordan Berry. Significant unrestricted free agents who signed elsewhere were Le’Veon Bell, Jesse James, and L.J. Fort. They re-signed seven exclusive rights or restricted free agents, chiefly B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler, and Xavier Grimble, as they await Mike Hilton’s signing.
Also of note were the release of Morgan Burnett, the trades of Antonio Brown and Marcus Gilbert, and three significant signings in free agency, adding starters at cornerback, inside linebacker, and potentially wide receiver in Steven Nelson, Mark Barron, and Donte Moncrief, respectively. Maurkice Pouncey also received a two-year contract extension.
Position: Running Back
Total Positional Figure: 5
Offseason Additions: 1
Offseason Deletions: 1
James Conner: While he had a successful first season as a starter, 2019 is the year the training wheels completely come off, the year it’s pretty much going to be decided whether or not he is the running back of the future. If he is, he’s going to get a nice contract in 2020. But he needs to show more consistency and better ball security in the interim.
Jaylen Samuels: Did Samuels show enough last season to convince the coaches that he is their number two back? I’m guessing not without competition. The Steelers are sure to draft a running back, but it will be interesting to see how high. He did a lot of good things, but was a big liability in pass protection. The thing is, he knows what to work on, so I’m excited to see him in training camp.
Trey Edmunds: The older brother of Terrell Edmunds, he was added to the practice squad after the Saints cut him and was later promoted to the 53-man roster. His best asset is on special teams, however, and will likely struggle to stick there again.
Ralph Webb: A 2018 undrafted free agent, the Steelers are already his third team, signed to the practice squad after Edmunds got the call-up. The slight Vanderbilt product ran for 102 yards on 31 attempts with two scores in the preseason along with five catches for 28 yards and another touchdown.
Malik Williams: Another 2018 undrafted free agent, Williams was a futures signing after spending time with the Falcons. At 6’3” and 221 pounds, his size is atypical of the position.
Stevan Ridley: Ridley pretty literally fumbled away his shot last season. He had a golden opportunity to establish himself as Pittsburgh’s number two back, but it’s not surprise he wasn’t re-signed.
Notes And Draft Outlook: At this point, it’s very likely that they use a mid-round draft pick, perhaps even a third-round pick, on drafting another running back. That wouldn’t exactly be out of the ordinary; they drafted Conner in the third while they still had Le’Veon Bell and hoped to sign him long-term. My guess is that they will be looking for somebody with reliability and a well-rounded skill set.