It’s no surprise the Pittsburgh Steelers are on the hunt for a running back. The question is, what type of running back are they looking for? The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac offered a clue to the runner they’re looking to add in the draft.
In detailing the approach to Pittsburgh fixing its dead-last run game, Dulac wrote:
“But they want a more dynamic feature back, a player who can put back in the offense a dimension that has been missing since the departure of Le’Veon Bell. They will do that in the draft, most likely in the first round, no later than the second.”
Ok, maybe that isn’t a lot of additional information. No team is clamoring to draft a running back who isn’t dynamic and can’t be a featured runner. But if we take all that at face value, it may mean they want a more athletic and explosive runner. That could signal them leaning towards Clemson’s Travis Etienne over Alabama’s Najee Harris.
At Etienne’s Pro Day, which Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert, and Matt Canada attended, he ran a 4.45 40 with a 10’8″ broad jump and excellent 9.14 Relative Athletic Score, putting up those numbers at 215 pounds. An ankle injury didn’t allow Harris to test at either of Alabama’s Pro Days, but it’s highly unlikely he would’ve put up similar times. Etienne’s calling card is explosiveness and big-play ability. He may lack elite, home run speed, but is certainly the more athletic player overall than Williams.
Going off what Lance Zierlein passed along a few days ago, the majority of people he’s spoken with have Etienne ranked slightly above Harris. The Steelers could feel the same.
It’s a question of old vs new. The “old” system had the team taking the biggest backs in the class — Le’Veon Bell (6’1″, 230), James Conner (6’1″, 233), Jaylen Samuels (5’11”, 225), (5’10”, 224) and Harris’ 6’1″, 232 build fits that mold perfectly. The “new” system could be Canada’s vision. They drafted Anthony McFarland (5’8″, 208) last year, and now could look for a bigger playmaker. The Steelers haven’t had a big-play run game since basically the Willie Parker days.
We still don’t know which running back sits at the top of the Steelers’ board. That answer is probably being finalized right around this time, when organizations put together their final draft boards. If both Harris and Etienne are on the board, I still lean towards the team taking Harris. But he’s far from a slam dunk pick.