2022 Pre-Draft Movements – Running Back

We started this series with a little over two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made by then. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Steelers did not have as many starters as last year hit free agency, but as of yet, they have only re-signed one of note, Chukwuma Okorafor. JuJu Smith-Schuster has already signed elsewhere, but others such as Trai Turner, Joe Haden, and Terrell Edmunds remain unsigned.

They were substantially active in free agency, however, re-signing Ahkello Witherspoon, Arthur Maulet, Miles Killebrew, Montravius Adams, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, and J.C. Hassenauer. They also signed linemen James Daniels and Mason Cole in outside free agency, as well as quarterback Mitch Trubisky, cornerback Levi Wallace, wide receiver/returner Gunner Olszewski, linebacker Myles Jack, and outside linebacker Genard Avery.

The team did not have to make drastic moves in order to get into cap compliance, but they did release two high-salaried players in linebacker Joe Schobert and tackle Zach Banner. As of now, they have not restructured any contracts, though restructuring T.J. Watt later this offseason is likely.

Position: Running Back

Total Positional Figure: 5

Offseason Additions: 0

Offseason Deletions: 1

Players Retained:

Najee Harris: The Steelers’ star first-round pick was their first rookie to make a Pro Bowl since Maurkice Pouncey in 2010. He finished the season with 1,200 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns despite having little to work with, while leading the league in touches, and not fumbling once, a rookie record.

Benny Snell: Now entering his fourth season, Snell saw a career-low workload due to having a healthy workhorse starter in front of him. But he still appears set to be their number two running back entering the 2022 season.

Anthony McFarland: A 2020 fourth-round draft pick, McFarland has done next to nothing as of yet in his career. While the Steelers’ inactivity at the position may save him, he shouldn’t be expected to stroll onto the roster this year. His second season saw him begin the year on the Reserve/Injured List, and he never really got started after that. The clock is ticking fast.

Trey Edmunds: Edmunds is now in his fifth season with the team, having spent a lot of time on special teams—and a lot of time on practice squads. He has been used as both a halfback and a fullback.

Derek Watt: Watt is going into his third year with the Steelers, ostensibly as their fullback, but they hardly ever use the position. He is, however, their special-teams captain, which is what they signed him to be. He played over 300 snaps there last season with 14 tackles.

Players Added: N/A

Players Deleted:

Kalen Ballage: At least for the time being, the Steelers have not brought back Ballage, who acted as the number three running back last season. He didn’t get many opportunities to play behind Harris. When he did, he didn’t offer anything special.

Notes And Draft Outlook:

It is unclear just how interested the Steelers are in investing a draft pick into the running back position. And given their needs elsewhere, it certainly shouldn’t be assumed that they plan to draft one. While they will have to fill out their offseason depth chart, that could be made up of college free agents and veteran-salary-benefit signings, including bringing Ballage back. They will also likely add a player or two from the USFL once that league’s season completes, as they have with the AAF and XFL.

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