Match made in heaven? Not so fast.
The Steelers haven’t had a big back play a meaningful role on the team since Jerome Bettis backed up Willie Parker in 2005. They’ve been searching for his replacement ever since, so it’s no surprise to find two other big backs on their current roster. Clay is a big and powerful back with ample wiggle and decent wheels. He has a spotty history when it comes to injuries, specifically his ankles, and his inability to play special teams will hinder his chances of making the roster.
The depth chart looks like this:
Rashard Mendenhall is signed and will start (when he’s not tweeting) when the season commences. Mewelde Moore is an undrafted free agent the Steelers would like to keep. Moore is the third down back who is excellent at catching passes and in blitz pickup. He’s also a Tomlin favorite and can start in a pinch. The guess here is that he’ll be back. The Steelers, despite Peter King’s incessant nonsense, are very unlikely to bring in Tiki Barber.
Mendenhall was the team’s goal-line back until the team discovered Isaac Redman, an undrafted free agent from Bowie State in 2009. Redman, who goes 6’ 240lbs, is the man to beat for Clay.
The team also has Jonathan Dwyer (2010 Draft pick. 6th Round, Georgia Tech), who was a highly
touted and very productive running back in the Yellow Jackets triple option system. Dwyer made the roster last season and carried nine times for 28 yards against Cleveland in the regular season finale. He’s a bigger back as well, but no where near the size of Clay.
Baron Batch was selected with the Steelers final pick in the 7th round in 2011. He’s likely an insurance policy for Moore as he is more of a 3rd down back- which should come as no surprise to those of you
who know how the Texas Tech offense operates.
The Bottom line: Clay has a chance, and those increase only slightly if the Steelers are unable to come to an agreement on Moore. Clay has the talent, but desire and health have always been big question marks for the big fella from Racine. His best chance to blow away Pittsburgh personnel in camp is to come in fit, hungry, and ready to dominate during goal-line situations and in blitz pickup.