It’s happening again. I’m looking at the Steelers back field and my stomach is producing enough caustic compounds to get its own ‘Breaking Bad’ spinoff. I get nervous anytime I look at the Home Team’s stable of rushers and don’t see a clear cut #1 guy. And more than just a default, ‘this back is our starter because he’s the least injured’ runner either. Right now, I don’t see the stud, the horse, or even the bus. I see a roster of fellows, some more competent than others, some with huge potential upside, but all wildcards with more cause for concern than I am comfortable with. Here’s who the Steelers have right now:
John Clay: Wait. Check that. They cut John Clay and his torn quad a couple of days ago. Not a big loss by any stretch but at least he LOOKED like the type of back Steelers fans are used to; 6’1” and 255 lbs. No matter though. Clay is gone.
Baron Batch and Chris Rainey: The current depth chart lists both of these backs together in the #3 spot. Batch created substantial buzz in training camp last year before shredding his knee and having his rookie season nixed before it even started. The free spirited Renaissance man has looked a bit better than average at running the ball so far this preseason but picked up blitzes very well against the Colts. He is still lightning quick on his feet and showing no fear out there in the fray. Batch’s depth chart partner (I’m not sure that’s legal in many states) is Chris Rainey. Rainey is this year’s Baron Batch. He’s a great interview, possesses an absolutely STOOPID amount of speed and agility, and could be a future NFL star in the mold of Darren Sproles. So far this preseason, Rainey has looked less than stellar fielding punts but could be a real weapon in the kick return game. He would ideally become a third down specialist in the Todd Haley offense and that could yield hefty returns. All of those hefty returns are hinged on Rainey staying healthy. Chris got himself dinged up in the opener against the Eagles and spent some time in the locker room last weekend being evaluated for a concussion. He looks to be flexing or rubbing something almost every time he gets up from a pile. Durability is the big question with both of these backs.
Jonathan Dwyer: It took 3 NFL seasons for Dwyer to finally report to training camp and not be morbidly obese. Starting your first two seasons in Mike Tomlin’s and Kirby Wilson’s collective dog house is no way to do business. But the Steelers must have seen the potential in this back. He played well when called upon last season. Dwyer passes the Joe Greene Eye Test as well. He’s 5’ 11” and weighs 235 lbs. He looks like a Black and Gold running back and is currently the only Steelers heavy weight that is not nursing some kind of injury.
Rashard Mendenhall: Or for you faithful followers of Solomon Wilcots, Mendinghall. Rashard done blowed out his knee thing in last year’s Browns finale and required big time surgery in the off season. The former featured back has just been removed from the P.U.P. list this week and has net to test the new wheel in a game type situation. Mendenhall is big, powerful, and fast but can be irritating as all hell to watch when he does that damn spin move BEFORE he hits the hole. Side to side cuts seem to be the last moves a back regains after major knee surgery so maybe Rashard will just hit the line straight on and leave the spin moves up to the Madden players.
Isaac Redman: Most of us have been clamoring for this guy to get his shot as the full time starter and we’ve got our wish. Redman is a big old punishing runner that can turn on the jets (relatively slow jets, but jets just the same) when he gets to the open field. The phrase I keep hearing pointed towards Ike is “maybe the game will be too big for him”. That’s NFL code for “he was an unrestricted free agent so, since we don’t have much cash invested in the guy, we don’t expect much from him”. Redman came out of Bowie State where I hope the fight song is ‘Rebel Rebel’. Bowie State is a real live college, where they play real live, eleven on eleven, tackle football. They even allow large numbers of fans to attend their games and play with a regulation sized ball and everything. Redman will stuff it up in between the tackles without fear but he did put piggy on the ground a couple of times last season. That’s no good. Right now he’s nursing a combination groin, hip, hammy, injury. Any one of those tweaks tends to be, at best, nagging and chronic. Soooo…… there’s that.
Do you think a healthy free agent running back would be a good pick up for the Steelers right now or should I just buy more Tums?