NFL Rumors: Pittsburgh Steelers' Interest in Mike Tolbert Makes Perfect Sense

Cian Fahey@CianafFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 05:  Running back Mike Tolbert #35 of the San Diego Chargers reacts after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 5, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The signing of LeRon McClain in San Diego has all but brought an end to Mike Tolbert's stint with the San Diego Chargers. Tolbert shouldn't worry though, as there will surely be plenty of teams seeking his signature over the coming days.

One of those teams is expected to be the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers, after Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL at the end of last season, are on the lookout for help at running back. As things currently stand, Mendenhall is not expected to be fully fit for the start of next season.

With that in mind, the Steelers are expected to turn to Isaac Redman as the team's starter. Redman filled in for Mendenhall last year in a backup role and proved himself as a tough runner between the tackles. However, he never really proved himself to be anything more than just a runner.

Tolbert, on the other hand, proved last season that he is a very dynamic running back.

Despite being a bulky back, Tolbert was as effective as a receiver last season as he was a runner. With 52 receptions for 433 yards and two touchdowns, Tolbert was a major factor in the Chargers offense playing alongside Ryan Mathews.

Tolbert was the receiving back for the Chargers but he could carve out an even greater role for the Steelers.

While Redman is slated to be the starter, he is promised nothing. If the Steelers believe that Tolbert gives them a better chance at winning football games, then he will indeed be the starter. Tolbert likely would be the better starter too.

As a four-year contributor to the Chargers offense, Tolbert has a lot more experience as a professional footballer while also proving himself as a viable long-term option. While Redman has been in the league for three years, he hasn't been involved significantly with the offense for very long.

Redman's role really only became clear last year when he eclipsed 100 carries for the first time in his career. Tolbert has had over 300 carries in the past two seasons with another 79 receptions. While Tolbert has more experience, he is also, somewhat surprisingly, a younger player.

Tolbert is 26 years of age, while Redman is a year older at 27.

Both Redman and Tolbert are the Steelers' type of running back historically. Both are tough runners who love to pound the ball between the tackles but are still capable of breaking off runs to the outside. However, only Tolbert really is a perfect fit in the modern day Steelers offense.

With his bulk, Tolbert is also a fine blocker in passing situations while his receiving talent is obvious considering he has tallied 79 receptions the past two seasons. While he is not a typical third-down back, a la Mewelde Moore or Danny Woodhead, he does have the ability to run over players when he catches the ball out of the backfield because his physical dimensions resembles those of a bowling ball.

Tolbert's versatility as a running back is valuable, but so is his versatility to play fullback.

The Steelers don't really use a fullback, but tight end David Johnson is often used in the backfield as a run blocker. However, with Weslye Saunders suspended for the start of next season, the Steelers will need another option to play that role when the team plays in three tight end sets (that is presuming Todd Haley keeps that part of the offense in place).

Therefore, for a team without much cap room to spare, Tolbert would be fitting two needs for the price of one.

The Steelers are considered a tough football team playing in a tough division, it is no surprise then that the team would be interested in the type of player that Mike Tolbert is.