There are several needs for the Steelers front office to figure out in the 2022 offseason. Although a first-round pick was used on Najee Harris in the 2021 NFL Draft, running back remains a need. Harris was on the field for just over 83% of the Steelers’ snaps last season.
Beyond just that, the drop off in performance was obvious. They won’t be spending a top round pick on a guy like Breece Hall or Isaiah Spiller, but a late-round pick on a running back seems inevitable. Now, it hasn’t exactly worked out the past few times. Jaylen Samuels had some decent spells. Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr. haven’t quite lived up to expectations, even for a backup role.
Our very own Jonathan Heitritter has been covering the NFL Combine this week in Indianapolis. He was able to catch up with Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks, who had this to say.
“I did talk to Pittsburgh. It was dope. I love the [running backs] coach, he’s cool. He [was] teaching me some things about literally pass-blocking.”
Brooks came out of high school as a four-star recruit from Mansfield, Texas, where he ran for 7,658 yards and 96 touchdowns. From there, he played three seasons at Oklahoma, eclipsing 1,000 yards each time. Brooks sat out of the 2020 season due to concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic and missed the 2017 campaign as well due to a shoulder injury that required surgery.
Upon returning to the field in 2021, he ran for 1,253 rushing yards and 13 TDs, both career-highs. It was the first season in which he had the backfield to himself for the most part. In previous seasons, he shared duties with the likes of Trey Sermon and Rhamondre Stevenson, both whom saw NFL action in 2021.
Brooks mentioned it was a formal interview with just the Steelers running backs coach, Eddie Faulkner. Brooks is currently projected as a mid-round pick, the range the Steelers will likely look at. The fourth or fifth rounds seem most likely, as they need someone that can spell Harris for 2022 and beyond. The Steelers have met with more than a handful of running backs so far this week, including UNC RB Ty Chandler, UTSA RB Sincere McCormick, BYU RB Tyler Allgeier, and more.
“I’m not trying to be a guy that goes off the field. I’m gonna play every single snap. I want to be somebody that they can rely on, running the ball, catching the ball, and pass blocking. I want to be very dependable and dominate the league.”
Brooks’ pass catching abilities aren’t as proven as the other parts of his game, as he didn’t eclipse 100 receiving yards in any of his three seasons. In fact, he caught just 29 balls for 209 yards across 37 games.
Based off his current draft projection, it’s unlikely he gets that role of being an every-down back right away. With that being said, it’s a nice thing for coaches and front offices to hear coming from a running back. He highlighted doing the little things, including pass blocking, as the important aspects of being that guy. Brooks would be an exceptional backup to Harris and is a guy to keep an eye on as the NFL Draft nears.