Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: RB Kalen Ballage
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The Steelers announced this week that they have signed the veteran running back to a one-year contract.
A fourth-round draft pick out of Arizona St. in 2018, Kalen Ballage spent his first two seasons with the Miami Dolphins before splitting time between the New York Jets and the Los Angeles Chargers a year ago, during which he saw a career-high 91 rushing attempts—albeit for only 303 yards.
Needless to say, the Ballage signing isn’t going to wow anybody. He’s not even a guy who is going to be guaranteed a roster spot. Even with the presumption that James Conner does not return, the Steelers already still have Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell, and Anthony McFarland, and it would be nothing short of stunning if they don’t use their highest draft pick on a running back this month that they have since at least taking Le’Veon Bell in 2013 in the second round.
One thing that Ballage does bring to the table is his resume for short-yardage success over the course of the past few years, which, as any Steelers fan is probably aware of, has been a sore spot for the team over that same stretch, though that has been as much on the blocking and play-calling as it has been on the running backs.
Overall, however, it is what it is, which is a depth signing. The Steelers have made similar moves at the position over the years, with mixed results as far as whether or not they actually end up making the 53-man roster. Stevan Ridley did. Knile Davis did not.
The bottom line is that this is a move that doesn’t really move the needle. It won’t affect their plans pretty much in any way. It certainly won’t make them less interested in grabbing a top running back. I suppose, in theory, it could make it slightly less likely that they bring back Conner, but that’s already unlikely, or so it seems.