One of the most perplexing things for the Pittsburgh Steelers offense so far this season has been the health instability of the running back position. Each of their top three running backs—and even their fullback—has missed at least one game and should miss at least two after this week. Their number four running back is now a threat to miss their next game.
It’s gotten to the point where they have had to have five running backs on the 53-man roster at the same time, and just yesterday they had to waive a player that they had just signed the day before in order to sign another running back to the practice squad. So they could have enough bodies in practice.
James Conner is dealing with a shoulder injury. It’s about the third injury he’s suffered so far this year, but the first that has caused him to miss time. He’s missed on game and is likely to miss another.
Jaylen Samuels missed two games, and three weeks, because of a knee injury. Benny Snell is set to miss his second game—and probably another two or more—because of a similar knee injury. Trey Edmunds was called up from the practice squad when Samuels was injured’; he now is dealing with a rib injury.
The only running backs on the team currently healthy are Samuels, just one game back from that knee injury, undrafted rookie Tony Brooks-James, who was recently called up from the practice squad, and Darrin Hall, who was just signed to the practice squad yesterday. At this point, they may go into Sunday’s game with just Samuels and Brooks-James available.
“It’s funny because every week you keep talking about a different music, like what chair and who it is”, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner told reporters yesterday about playing musical chairs at running back. “I just tip my hat to our guys because I don’t think any one of them really paid much attention to it”.
“It’s not easy from a planning standpoint because you kind of work through the week, and then all of a sudden you start to get some of your guys back and realize there’s going to be a limited amount of reps”, he went on. “So what we choose to do in a game, we’ve got to make sure that we’re putting all of the guys in the best position they can be in, first, and then make sure that we at least got some reps at it or at least a rep so that they can do their job”.
At this point, if Edmunds is unable to go, they may waive him and call up Hall from the practice squad just so they can have three running backs to dress. Even Nix is dealing with a recurring injury and is in question for the game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Many have criticized the running game, and fairly so. But the injury situation hasn’t made it very easy to get it going. Who would have expected Brandon Brooks-James to get an NFL carry with the Steelers in the middle of the season?