Sometimes people really just can’t help themselves, can they? Two years after the Pittsburgh Steelers made the mistake of using the franchise tag on a running back—not once, but twice—Gil Brandt suggests that the team should once again make the effort to invest heavily in the running back position this offseason by going after Los Angeles Chargers free agent Melvin Gordon. He writes:
The Steelers (currently projected to have less than $2 million in cap space, per Over The Cap) might not be able to afford Gordon, who, at any rate, has publicly said he wants to stick with the Chargers. Still, it’s not hard to see Gordon ending up elsewhere, given the way last year’s holdout unfolded. Running back Le’Veon Bell’s absence in Pittsburgh over the past two seasons (as a holdout in 2018 and as a signee with the Jets in ’19) left a void that James Conner and others haven’t really been able to fill. The Steelers have a strong defense (ranking fifth in 2019) and a quarterback who is coming off a major elbow injury and turning 38 in March. Adding Gordon, who is a talented ball carrier and would mesh very well with Pittsburgh’s M.O. of releasing the ball to the running back coming out of the backfield, would surely help Ben Roethlisberger and Co. make the most out of their remaining window.
In terms of the sheer logic, it’s not altogether foolhardy. The Steelers can’t be guaranteed of what Ben Roethlisberger will be like in 2020. At the same time, they can’t be overly comfortable in being assured of anything that they will get out of their running backs, including James Conner, who at best, even if he is very good when he is on the field, may spend a lot of time off of it.
Gordon, a former first-round draft pick, held out of the first four games of last season for the Chargers looking for a new contract. He finished the season with 612 rushing yards on 162 carries, though he did have eight rushing touchdowns. He also caught 42 passes for 296 yards with another touchdown.
Over the course of the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Gordon caught a total of 108 passes for 966 yards and eight receiving touchdowns, so Brandt does have a point about his potential to be used in the receiving game, something obviously important in Pittsburgh.
With that said, it is overwhelmingly obvious that the Steelers are not going to be going after him in free agency, even if he does become available once the new league year begins. Brandt says himself that they simply would not be able to afford it. Not while they go after retaining Bud Dupree.