The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will carry Trey Edmunds as a fourth running back in 2019.
Explanation: Trey Edmunds, the older brother of Terrell Edmunds, was signed to the team’s practice squad at the start of last year before being called up for the final four weeks after James Conner was injured. He was the fourth running back at that time, even the third, as he dressed over Stevan Ridley in the finale.
According to Jeremy Fowler, Edmunds has looked very good this spring, calling him a player who will be hard to cut. He is currently an incumbent, as he ended the 2018 on the roster. Even if he might not get on the field on offense much at all, he is a legitimate contributor on special teams.
Another factor in his favor is Benny Snell’s rookie status. You just don’t know how ready a rookie is going to be to play right away. Jaylen Samuels is still young as well, and not at all proven in pass protection. Edmunds has been around the block in comparison.
Finally, there is ample evidence in Mike Tomlin’s history of carrying four running backs. In 2008, for example, he had Willie Parker, Mewelde Moore, Gary Russell, and Najeh Davenport. In 2010, they had Mendenall, Moore, Isaac Redman, and Jonathan Dwyer, and that same group again the following year. In 2012, they had Mendenhall, Redman, Dwyer, Chris Rainey, and Baron Batch on the roster at different times, with four overlapping.
While the history of carrying four running backs is there, there has usually been some type of qualifier, and they really haven’t done it much since then. It has usually come when they have felt weaker at the top of the position, and that is not the case this year.
This also seems to be a year in which there is going to be too much depth at too many positions to be able to spare a spot for a fourth running back. I can easily see six wide receivers, nine linemen, 10 or even 11 linebackers, and maybe even 11 defensive backs.