Player: Kalen Ballage
Position: Running Back
Experience: 4 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2021 Salary Cap Hit: $920,000
2021 Season Breakdown:
Former Miami Dolphins running back Kalen Ballage signed and played under a one-year minimum-value contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, a deal with a total value of $920,000 that included no signing bonus, and thus no guaranteed money.
He earned $5,664.17 per snap before taxes this past season, and most of those snaps (98 out of 163) came on special teams, which consisted nearly entirely of work on the kick return unit. He saw snaps in one game, the regular-season finale, on the other three major units that encompass ‘four-phase’ special teams play, for a total of eight snaps.
Given that he only played four snaps on coverage units, I hope you’re not shocked that he had no tackles. He did play on coverage units while he was a member of the Dolphins, however, so it’s not something he can’t do.
Offensively, he played just 65 snaps, garnering 36 rushing yards on 12 attempts. He was somehow targeted seven times, but caught just two of them, with two drops charged to him. He was 3-for-9 in successful runs on first-down runs, and 2-for-3 on second-down runs, with two rushes of 10-plus yards overall. He had three rushes of negative yardage in his limited body of work.
Free Agency Outlook:
There is no compelling reason to think that the Steelers should go out of their way to re-sign Kalen Ballage, not that they would have to. He is unlikely to have a meaningful market of any kind, and quite possibly would still be available after the draft if they were to choose to wait.
Ballage unseated Jaylen Samuels as one of four halfbacks on the 53-man roster last season, the others being Najee Harris, Benny Snell, and Anthony McFarland, the latter spending almost the entire season, when healthy, as a scratch.
The fact that the Steelers have nothing to speak of behind Harris, yet have no compelling reason to want to re-sign Ballage, speaks to how little he affected the team last season. They should easily be able to find a comparable or better alternative among veterans who could be had on cheap deals that wouldn’t factor into the compensatory pick formula.