The president of the Steelers, Art Rooney II, stated at the end of last season the Steelers needed to get better at running the ball than they were in the 2009 season.
Coach Mike Tomlin agreed with that, and remarked before the draft that he wanted to find a really good fullback.
Was that just pre-draft smoke? If the Steelers really wanted a fullback, why didn't they pick the number two-rated FB Rashon Jackson who was still available in the last round? Was it because that their offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said that there would never be a fullback in his offense?
We all had high hopes for the Tank last year when he was drafted. We all wanted him to be the new power back to wear out opposing defenses and grind out yards to kill the clock in the second half of games. But in pre-season, I wasn't even sure from what I had seen of him that he would even make the Steelers 53-man roster.
Another rookie running back seemed better and was a fan favorite. But make it? Tank did, mostly playing on special teams for 2.5 games, until a back injury forced him to have surgery and was put on IR. In 2010 training camp, he will again have to battle for a spot on the team against the same fan favorite from last year and two other rookies. If Tank wants to make the Steelers roster this year, his best chance could be as a true fullback.
20-year old Georgia Tech junior running back Jonathan Dwyer opted to leave college a year early for the 2010 NFL Draft. Early draft projections had Dwyer as the fifth best running back, being picked some where from the mid-second round to the mid-fourth round. In the sixth round at pick number 188, the Steelers decided that Dwyer's draft value was too good to pass up at this point in the draft. Now it is up to Dwyer.
If Dwyer puts maximum effort into training and the pre-season, he could end up being one of the best sixth-round picks the Steelers have ever had.
Dwyer is in a position to make the Steelers draft people look really great, or he could just end up as another sixth-round player on the practice squad, or the streets at the end of pre-season.
Hopefully he will live up to his early draft billing, and will win the Steelers number two running back job. Another possibility is he could end up competing for the fullback position.
Most of us fans don't know why RB Isaac Redman didn't make the starting roster last year instead of Frank the Tank. Redman is two inches taller than Summers, and weighs the same as Summers. Redman also was the leader in rookie pre-season rushing yards, and the most productive short-yardage back in pre-season.
At the start of the 2009 season, Fast Willie Parker was still on the roster and the Steelers only had room for one of the two backs. I guess Redman was just the odd man out. I still am curious to know why though. The Steelers did keep Redman on the practice squad for the whole 2009 season.
In the first 2010 training camp reports. the Steelers are giving all the running backs a try at the fullback position. As training camp and the pre-season progresses, maybe us fans will get a hint as to who is in the lead position; if Arians allows one on his offense that is.
Coach Tomlin found this FB, an undrafted free agent defensive tackle, Demetrius Taylor from Virginia Tech, at a Pro Day work out. Tomlin thought he moved too well in some of the drills, so he asked Taylor if he had any experience at the running back position. Taylor said yes; in high school he was a RB/ FB. So after the draft, the Steelers' called Taylor and signed him up to try out at fullback.
While there would be nothing I would like to see more than seeing the Steelers have a 260 lb., honest to goodness fullback on their starting roster, the chances of Taylor actually making the team are probably slim to none; especially if would cost Arians one of his tight end spots on the roster.
Heath Miller is the Steelers premier pass-catching tight end. While Arians likes to keep as many as four tight ends on the roster, Miller is the main pass catching tight end and the other three ends are mostly used as blockers; sometimes one is used as a fullback.
If the Steelers' were to decide to keep a fullback on the roster, it is possible Arians would only be able to keep three tight ends on the roster. I doubt if Arians will design many plays that make it easier for the Steelers to choose a fullback. And If I was one of the players trying out for the fullback position, I wouldn't expect any favors from Arians either.
It will be interesting to see how all these things work out during training camp and the end of pre-season. Will Arians eat his words and have a fullback on the 53-man roster, or just keep one on the practice squad for emergency access?