By now we’ve all heard Tomlin’s comments regarding the criticism of their free agent moves so far from the owner’s meetings in Phoenix. Tomlin expressed unconditional confidence in his team regardless of the pieces added or still missing stating,
“That’s March talk. I’ll see you in the stadiums in the fall.”
I’m a sucker for a good Tomlinism and I’ve been known to be the Tomlin apologist and defender of the NPC staff. I think he’s a great coach and he’s capable of leading this team to many more Super Bowls. Unfortunately, my confidence is wavering a scooch after the disappointing 8-8 season, the comments of several players regarding the status of the locker room during last season, and the decisions made so far in regards to the departure of key members of the team. By far my biggest concern for March and the fall that I’d like Tomlin to address is who in the hell is supposed to the running the ball for the Steelers come September?
I, for one, am going to be the last one on Earth to admit the Steelers are rebuilding right now. I refuse to admit it, I’m in complete denial and I’ll own up to that. I don’t want it to be true. I feel like having Ben Roethlisberger under center means you don’t rebuild, you reload. Unfortunately, with the salary cap limitations and lack of depth at certain positions now it’s not as easy to reload as it sounds. As much as I feel that letting James Harrison walk away was a mistake, specifically since no other team has signed him yet signifying the market for a LB with a history of injuries and being on the wrong side of 30 isn’t as lucrative as he and his agent might have thought it was, I somehow have more confidence in our defense than our offense. I think last season showed that our defense, with the players still signed under contract, are capable of making the necessary plays to keep the team in games in which they can win late in the season. Our offense, on the other hand, ran like a car with no engine most in part to the lackluster rushing game put on by the trio of Mendenhall, Redman, and Dwyer. Mendenhall is gone and I have no problem with that. He quit on the team last year and he has no business being a part of this team, and he’s an average back at best anyway. The fact that at this point we have Redman, Dwyer, and Baron Batch to run the ball so far for the 2013 season makes me want to refill my anti-anxiety medication.
I have to believe the Steelers are still planning to add a running back to the roster before camp opens at the end of July. At this point, only Dwyer has signed his tender and will remain on the roster for at least another season. Last season I was all for Dwyer getting the start when he ran all over Cincy and Washington in back to back games. Then he never ran for more than 60 yards a game the remainder of the season and when he was in games, tapped his helmet signifying he wanted to come off of the field so many times you’d think he was playing some odd game of Simon Says during the game. I don’t know now if Dwyer has what it takes to be the starting back for the Steelers and taking the majority of the reps. Dwyer ended the season with the most rushing yards (623) of all the backs on the team.
There has been some speculation that the Steelers are interested in signing former New York Giants FA RB Ahmad Bradshaw, although he hasn’t officially visited the team and no proposed deal is in place. Bradshaw has ok numbers, kind of similar to Mendenhall’s career numbers with a couple of 1,000+ yard season and some injury issues mixed in as well. As Dom stated in an earlier post, Bradshaw could be a steal salary-wise considering when you’re still unsigned in the third week of free agency, you can’t really command a big salary anymore. Bradshaw is a six year veteran and could very well help out with that “leadership problem” the Steelers seemed to have last season, you can only speculate that could have been traced back in part to their most tenured RB Mendenhall and his pouting fits regarding playing time. Bradshaw could provide to the running back corps the same kind of thing that Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico provided to the wide receivers.
Former Alabama running back Eddie Lacy has been in draft discussions for the Steelers, however he’s currently nursing a hamstring injury that is keeping him idle for Alabama’s Pro-Day and also kept him out of the NFL’s scouting combine in February. Most draft experts are predicting the Steelers will go either defensive line or linebacker with their pick at #17 overall and address their offensive needs in the later rounds but you never know what’s going to happen come draft day. Addressing the running back needs has to be a priority in either the draft or the remainder of free agency.
Tomlin himself expressed earlier this month that the need to add a running back to the squad is imperative. The free agency market right now isn’t great for running backs. Bradshaw is probably one of the best names out there right now and the Steelers have already met and turned down Beanie Wells and haven’t had any other visits since. Running the Steelers offense without a tried and true starting running back is not going to work. I have a mountain of faith in Ben Roethlisberger, but I know he’s at his best when he has a running game to compliment his talents. Hell, Steeler Nation needs a running back. We’re not happy unless we’re rushing for over 100+ yards a game no matter how successful the offense might be in the air. It’s in our DNA; we crave sandwiches with fresh cut fries on them and rushing yards and touchdowns. My confidence in Tomlin this season will in part depend on his and Colbert’s ability to land an actual running back to benefit this team.