The Indianapolis Colts have dived head first into the post Peyton Manning era after a flurry of players were released today by owner Jim Irsay. Significantly for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of those players could prove to be a very valuable addition this offseason.
Joseph Addai is that player.
Addai is a 28-year-old running back with starting experience at the professional level. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards twice in his career, albeit during his first two seasons, and proven himself as a capable receiving threat.
While he is not a star running back by any means, Addai would fill a role on the Steelers roster which is now lacking after Rashard Mendenhall's serious knee injury last year. He is a nimble running back who can damage defenses in space and be a matchup problem as a receiver.
Even though Isaac Redman is slated to be the team's starting running back, Redman does not provide the skill set the Steelers require in their pass-oriented offense. Redman is a bruising runner with exceptional abilities as a goal-line runner and between-the-tackles back.
He is not, however, a threat at all as a receiver, nor is he versatile positionally or dynamic in space.
Addai can be all of those things even if he has struggled in recent years to make an impact with the Colts. At 28, he is still physically capable of performing on the field despite some injury-plagued seasons in recent times. He cannot be relied upon to carry the load a la Rashard Mendenhall, but he can potentially be a very good role player for the Steelers in the mold of Mewelde Moore.
Moore is once again a free agent this offseason and isn't guaranteed to return. He was used sparingly last season as opposed to previous years.
Without Moore on the roster, the team's most likely third-down back is former seventh-round draft pick Baron Batch. Batch is well thought of in Pittsburgh by the fans but, realistically, he is just a late-round draft choice who is still recovering from a severe knee injury.
Batch created a lot of hype last season without playing a game because of his early impressive performances in training camp, as well as his interesting back-story/character. The problem with Batch is that he hasn't even played a preseason game in the NFL yet.
He simply cannot be relied upon to do anything next year. Expectations shouldn't be anything greater than simple hope with Batch.
Considering that Addai won't be highly sought after in free agency, the Steelers could bring him in this offseason for very close to the minimum salary or even the minimum. Addai is more likely to be a productive back than Batch. At the very least, Addai has experience playing at the professional level and understands what is expected on Sundays.
Addai has also played in a pass-first offense throughout his career with the Indianapolis Colts. With Todd Haley as the offensive coordinator, the Steelers should be a pass-happy team next year.
Their offensive line is not built to dominate opposition as a run-blocking unit, while the receivers on the outside are too talented to be complementary pieces. With Addai in the backfield, as opposed to Redman, the Steelers would be better suited to pass the ball.
Redman would still be of value, however.
With Redman on the roster, Addai would not be asked to carry the load or play too many snaps. Redman could wear down defenses to the point that Addai would come in passing situations but still have the potential to break off big runs against a tired defense.
This is much similar to the type of offense the New England Patriots run with Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, while Kansas City ran a slightly similar pair of backs in Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles two years ago.
By no means are Addai and any of the Steelers backs comparable to Jones and Charles, but they don't need to be, because they will be just be role players.
Role players are very important also.
Addai would be a typical Steelers signing in free agency.