2021 Offseason Questions: How Should Steelers Address Running Back Position?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: How should the Steelers address the running back position?

Although James Conner is a pending free agent, the Steelers still have three running backs under contract whom they have drafted within the past three years. The most notable of that group is Benny Snell, who has shown moments when he has had the opportunity to get a significant number of carries.

There is also Anthony McFarland, a smaller, faster back (who is NOT a scat back, before we get into that conversation), who was a rookie in 2020, and probably looked the most like a rookie of all the rookies on the team. But he still has an intriguing skill set and plenty of room to grow.

But it’s obvious that the running game wasn’t working the way it was supposed to last year, and the Steelers have at least paid lip service to the notion that they understand they can’t do nothing while expecting the results to change.

Obviously, addressing the personnel that actually handles the hard labor of running the football is an element of this discussion, and I would have to assume that they intend to add another running back at some point this offseason. But where? When? Will they sign a modest free agent? How high might they be willing to draft one? a first-round running back might make Dave’s head explode, so there’s that to consider.

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