On Monday, the Steelers appeared to be dealt a significant blow with regards to the makeup of their 2012 roster. G.M. Kevin Colbert stated that the franchise is going to go about its business with an understanding that RB Rashard Mendenhall will not be playing in 2012. While Colbert likely means that Mendenhall’s role will be lessened and he will be on the PUP List to start the year, many in Steeler Nation seem to believe that RB is now a position of need for Pittsburgh.
Don’t get me wrong, losing Mendenhall hurts the Steelers’ Offense, I will not argue that fact. However, replacing Mendenhall in terms of his statistical impact on the team while maintaining 2011’s RB statistical output can be done, and it can be accomplished more easily than one would think. If you’re interested in what I have to say and are interested in a statistical breakdown hit “Continue Reading” button and let’s get started:
Running Back: Easiest Position to Replace in the N.F.L.
So, you still think that losing Mendenhall will destroy the Steelers’ running game? Sure, it will hurt Pittsburgh in terms of losing Mendenhall’s steady production, I’ll give you that Mendy supporters. But you know what? A high amount statistical production can be made up rather easily and picked up by a solid “RB by committee” staff. Want some recent proof?
Let’s take a look at the New Orleans Saints as a nice example of a “RB by committee” in 2011. New Orleans with their “4 Headed Monster” ranked 6th in the N.F.L. in rushing yards and averaged 4.9 YPC. In fact, the Saints didn’t have a guy that carried the ball more than 122 times (Mark Ingram), and Darren Sproles led the team with 603 Yards Rushing for a backfield that had some injuries along the way. Nevertheless, the Saints rode Ingram, Sproles, Pierre Thomas, and Chris Ivory to over 2,000 yards on the ground and over 1,100 yards through the air in 2011. Sure, you can say that the Saints faced a lot of 4-5 men in the box sets, but running for over 2,000 yards as a team is still an incredible feat. In fact, only 9 teams in the entire League last season rushed for 2,000 yards last season (the Steelers weren’t one of them either).
Like the Saints, each of the Steelers’ RB’s I will discuss below do one or two things particularly well, but are not necessarily complete Backs all by themselves. Furthermore, one of these Backs cannot shoulder the entire Offensive load if asked to do so.
Thus, the Steelers don’t necessarily need to replace Mendenhall the player. They simply need to replace him in the “aggregate” in a statistical sense to have success on the Offensive side of the ball. The chains just need to keep moving, the Offense just keeps producing, and the mistakes must be kept at a minimum when whichever of the combination of Backs is called upon to contribute: Much like the Saints did this season with their RB’s.
Mendenhall and his production can be replaced. How so, you may ask? Let’s start with a statistical breakdown: