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RB Mike Tolbert spent 4 seasons with the San Diego Chargers from 2008-2011
I'll start with this move because it's the most unlikely to happen; it means making a few necessary cuts.
This move has to begin by cutting current running back Rashard Mendenhall. Now, before you go ballistic and stop reading my work, hear me out on this one. Mendenhall was a major disappointment for Pittsburgh fans this season. He failed to top 1,000 yards on the ground, mostly because his running style doesn't fit his abilities. To be fair, the Steelers line gave him little help, but time and time again the nearly-230 pound back could be seen trying to bounce outside and get the edge on a corner.
And each time it was unsuccessful.
The other situation the team has with Mendenhall is the matter of his injury and how long he'll be out. Mendenhall tore his ACL in the Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns and isn't expected to return until around the same time next year. Mendy also carries a $3 million salary into 2012, which is the final year of his contract.
By cutting Mendenhall, the Steelers free up a roster spot and save $3 million they can use toward a back who will actually play next season. That back should be Mike Tolbert.
Tolbert burst onto the NFL scene in 2010 by rushing for over 700 yards and scoring 11 times on the ground. In 2011, Tolbert fell just short of 500 rushing yards while sharing duties with Ryan Mathews, but reeled in 54 receptions and scored 10 total touchdowns.
At 243 pounds, Tolbert is the big back Steeler Nation has been craving since the Bus left town.
Tolbert has the frame to take a leading role, with Isaac Redman spelling him when needed. He's also only 26 years old. Tolbert also add a receiving threat out of the backfield that Pittsburgh hasn't had, well, ever. And with the not-so-impressive offensive line protecting Ben Roethlisberger, he could use a solid dump-off option.
Tolbert's agent has said several teams have shown interest in his client, including the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and the San Diego Chargers. The biggest problem with signing Tolbert will be the money he commands.
Conservatively speaking, Tolbert could command anywhere from $4-$6 million per year. Still, that's not bad for a starting back.