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 should be interested in what running back Leonard Fournette’s price tag will be in 2021.
Explanation: The Steelers are obviously looking to address the running back position, and it’s pretty clear that they are probably not going to re-sign James Conner. If they can afford to bring in a veteran for a reasonable price and add a high draft pick, that is their typical approach to addressing roster holes, and Fournette, a former first-round pick who hasn’t had the career projected, could be in that running.
Fournette might not be a ‘franchise running back’, if there is such a thing anymore, but he is a player who is capable of taking a chunk of carries. He is not the most efficient runner in the world, but he has explosive-play potential that could pair well with the rest of the running back stable, which would likely also include (yet another) rookie.
The former LSU standout is coming off a very strong four-game postseason run. Heading into the Super Bowl this past weekend, he rushed for 211 yards on 48 attempts and two touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ first three games, averaging 4.4 yards per attempt. He also caught 14 passes for 102 yards and another touchdown. He finished the Super Bowl with another 89 yards on 16 attempts and a score, plus 46 receiving yards on four catches.
Let’s start with the fact that the Steelers aren’t even going to have salary cap space to go after a mid-priced borderline starter at running back, which is where Fournette could wind up, based on his recent play and his pedigree. There is always somebody willing to bid higher, and there are certainly other runner-hungry teams.
Fournette is a back who also needs an offensive line to approach any type of level of consistency, which the Steelers don’t have, so he’s not a good fit to come in right now. He might break off a couple of chunk plays, but they got even that out of Conner last year. If they were considering pursuing Fournette, then they would be just as well off, if not better off, just re-signing Conner.