There are those who feel that there is nothing the Pittsburgh Steelers need to come out of the 2020 NFL Draft more than a starting running back, if not for 2020, then for the 2021 season. There is another camp that believes a running back doesn’t need to be taken at all, and that they can wait until 2021 to find a starter if that should become necessary.
Over the course of the next two days, the Steelers will prove that nothing anybody says actually matters, in that it has no bearing on the decisions they make. Either they take a running back, or they don’t. It will largely depend on how the draft falls, but with only one running back off the board, there is a chance one of the top prospects is available at 49.
Former Steelers cornerback Rod Woodson, who has long shifted to a career in the media, seems to be on board with the team drafting a running back, or at least is open to it, and that is predicated upon the undeniable reality of James Conner’s injury history.
A third-round pick in 2017, Conner spent his rookie season backing up Le’Veon Bell, but when the All-Pro no-showed in 2018, it was the Pitt product putting on the show, putting up nearly 1500 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in 13 games played, with a Pro Bowl to show for it.
Of course, the three games he didn’t play in was because of a high ankle sprain. He missed the end of his rookie season with a torn knee. And he missed large chunks of last season with multiple injuries, including a shoulder injury.
“Conner has been hurt”, Woodson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I love his story. I love his toughness. He does bring that toughness back to Pittsburgh when he’s playing. But the problem is he’s been hurt every year. If Conner is healthy, he’s capable of being that bell cow. But he’s been hurt. Is he durable?”.
That’s the question the Steelers have had to weigh throughout this draft process in order to determine their level of need for the running back position, in addition to trying to calculate in advance the likelihood that they would re-sign him.
All of that is just one piece of the puzzle, though, with the other major factor being the talent of the players available. If a running back is the best player available, it’s hard to pass up on it, especially when you have no proven player who doesn’t have an injury history and who is under contract for more than one year.