Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back Depth: Who Makes the Cut?
The once vaunted Steelers rush attack, which has always been known for its physicality and toughness, has fallen on hard times as of late.
There are many things that anyone can point to as being the reasons: having a great quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, the pass happy offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, “Fast” Willie Parker’s finesse style, the struggling offensive line, etc.
Fans and owners alike have been screaming to get back to Pittsburgh Steelers football, which means more of a commitment to the running game this season. With management getting increasingly impatient and Big Ben being suspended for at least four games this season, the Steelers running game will be leaned on more than ever this season.
This means the running back battle in camp this offseason will be amped up and more intense than in recent years.
This is how I believe this battle will play out and who will make the cut to help the Steelers get back to dominating teams on the ground.
Featured Back: Rashard Mendenhall
Rashard Mendenhall started his career with the Steelers dreadfully after having fumbling problems and then being lost for the season due to a Ray Lewis tackle that broke his shoulder in his rookie year. He then followed that up with having his work ethic questioned and being benched in a Week Three loss to the Chicago Bears.
The message apparently got through to him since after that benching he exploded onto the scene with a 165 yard, two touchdown performance against the Chargers the next week.
Ultimately, Mendenhall finished with 1,108 yards and seven touchdowns and has completely taken over the starting duties in Pittsburgh. He displayed why he was a first round pick, with great quickness and good speed and power through the line and even showed off a spin move he likes to use often to leave defenders in the dust.
Big things are expected from Mendenhall this upcoming season with more of a commitment to the running game coming, and I believe he will carry the Steelers, especially with Big Ben out for the first four games at least.
Main Backup: Jonathan Dwyer
With the 19th pick in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer.
With Willie Parker leaving in free agency this offseason, there is a gaping hole in the backup running back position on the Steelers.
Right now there is a battle for that position mainly between Dwyer and veteran Mewelde Moore, who has filled in admirably for the Steelers in his career with the team.
I believe that Dwyer is going to win this camp battle and will be a huge contributor for the Steelers this season, spelling Mendenhall and in goal line/short yardage situations.
Going into the draft, Dwyer was thought of as one of the best power backs available and would have gotten late first and second round considerations if not for a medical condition he has had since his youth.
A failed drug test from the medication for this condition scared a lot of teams away and the Steelers were able to steal him in the sixth round. I see him becoming a really good second back for the Steelers in the future.
Third Down Back: Mewelde Moore
One word could always describe Mewelde Moore throughout his career with the Vikings and Steelers, and that is "versatile." He is the type of player every coach wants on his roster and will do anything and everything to help the team win.
Moore has great hands out of the backfield and is perfectly suited as the third down back for the Steelers. With that said, he is also a very capable runner and can fill in at any time due to injury if necessary.
During his career, Moore has scored in many different ways, accumulating a rushing, receiving, passing, and return touchdown in his seven years. He is a very smart player and blocks very well on passing downs as well.
Moore has the most experience of any of the running backs on the roster and will battle rookie Jonathan Dwyer for carries as the backup behind Reshard Mendenhall, even though as I stated earlier I believe Dwyer will win that job.
Don’t ever count out Moore, as he is a scrappy player who can still contribute to the Steelers offense this season.
Fullback: Frank Summers
Frank Summers was drafted in the fifth round of last year’s draft and impressed coaches with his hard running style and hands out of the backfield.
He started the season as the starting fullback out of camp and then unfortunately had his rookie season cut short by injury.
He played in the first two games without accumulating stats and then was placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
Summers’ place on the roster was a surprise in the first place as many fans expected preseason standout Isaac Redman to make the squad. Redman’s success and display of power in the preseason excited fans, only to see him cut and Summers on the roster. This season Summers will be competing with Redman and rookie Demetrius Taylor, who is a converted defensive lineman, for the fullback job.
I am a Redman fan, however it seems like Summers has the edge and will probably win this battle for a spot on the roster. Hopefully he begins to live up to his nickname as Frank “The Tank” Summers.
Return Specialist: Stefan Logan
Stefan Logan is a former Canadian Football League member and with his team, the BC Lions, he had 889 rushing yards, 477 receiving yards, and three touchdowns.
Known for his great speed and quickness, he signed with the Steelers last offseason with the sole purpose of competing for a spot as a return specialist. He showed his explosion and highlighted his bid with a return touchdown to stamp down his spot on the roster.
Logan went on to break the Steelers' single-season record for return yards with a combined 1,746 between punts and kickoffs.
I am actually rooting for one of the rookie receivers or someone else to step up in the return game, because Logan doesn’t contribute to anything else on the team. His only stat is one reception for five yards in Week 15.
I would like to see if someone could fight him off and take over for returns so that we could have a player with a little more versatility on the roster. However, I believe in the end Logan will be the Steelers' return man for this season.
Practice Squad Candidate: Isaac Redman
I am a big fan of Redman as I previously stated and I think he has a chance to make the roster if Frank Summers falters in camp.
During the preseason last year he dazzled fans with his power and aptitude to get into the end zone, however was left off the 53-man roster and signed to the practice squad. Unfortunately I believe Redman is headed for the same fate this season as I believe the Steelers like Summers better as the fullback.
Practice Squad Candidate: Demetrius Taylor
An undrafted free agent this offseason, Taylor is a converted defensive lineman and the biggest running back on the roster at 273 pounds.
I don’t really see him having much of a chance to make the roster this season. However, I believe the Steelers will keep him on the practice squad to develop his raw talent at the position into a good player for them in the future.
Practice Squad Candidate: Justin Vincent
An undrafted free agent for the Atlanta Falcons in 2007, Vincent failed to make the roster that season.
I think Vincent has the lowest chance of any to make the roster and I believe he is nothing more than competition in camp. He has been going back and forth from on and off the Steelers' practice squad since 2008 and depending on injuries I don’t see that changing this season.