Minus Mendenhall, Do Steelers Have Enough RBs?
While the Steelers had no interest in free agent running back Mike Tolbert, they do have one very big concern at the position. They do not believe Rashard Mendenhall will be of much use to them in 2012, which is the final year of his contract.
Itís possible Mendenhall may have had his last carry with the Steelers.
Sources told me that the Steelers will not count on Mendenhall returning to form until at least the 2013 season, and his contract with the Steelers will have expired by then. GM Kevin Colbert basically said heís not counting on him until 2013 when he said this on Feb. 13: ďI never feel good about an ACL until a year. Iím not a doctor, but that's my mindset. If he gets back before that, to me it's a bonus.Ē
Even if he does get back before that, however, heís not expected to be at the level he was as a running back before the injury in the playoff game at Denver and subsequent surgery. The Steelers not only have lost Mendenhall, they likely wonít re-sign UFA Mewelde Moore.
So, where does that leave them? It leaves them with Isaac Redman as their starter with Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay and Barron Batch in the stable behind him.
Are they comfortable with that? Batch probably would have elbowed Moore out of his job had he not torn his own ACL the second week of training camp. He looks to be fully healed, and Colbertís words could hold true with him as well, which means he should feel good about Batch around the second week of August, which is perfect timing.
Thatís a lot of backfield inexperience for the Steelers. Itís not just that those players are young, but they have shown little in the bigs other than Redman. Dwyer carried 16 times for 123 yards including that epic 76-yard run against Tennessee Ė but he ended the season on injured reserve with a foot injury. He had nine carries for 28 yards as a rookie in 2010.
Clay spent his rookie season on the practice squad until he replaced the injured Dwyer. Clay ran 10 times for 41 yards, including an impressive 10-yard run around end against St. Louis.
Four young backs; is that enough? They only carried four backs on the 53-man roster last season, so four is enough for the depth chart once the season opens.
Thatís a moot point with Tolbert. But there may be other backs out there Ė free agents now or free agents-to-be if they are released Ė whose price might be attractive enough later-on for the Steelers to sign one. Thatís not something they can count on, and neither can they count on getting a stud back in the draft.
So, the Steelers backfield in September could be just as it stands now with Redman, Dwyer, Clay and Batch.