Gone are the days in the NFL of the big, bruising running back. There’s not a Steeler fan on the planet that doesn’t love the sight of Jerome Bettis plowing through Brian Urlacher as if he was a tackling dummy but those days are long gone. With the rule changes to the running backs’ ability to take on defenders with their heads up, to the Steelers tendency to lean towards smaller, faster backs now that Todd Haley is calling the plays; Steeler fans won’t be watching anyone like The Bus anytime soon.
Last season, the Steelers drafted Chris Rainey out of Florida for the backfield and although he possessed a ton of speed, he could fit in my purse. Rainey had varying and inconsistent levels of success in the different packages he was put in for, including punt and kick return. Rainey has since been released from the team due to his domestic violence incidents but it looks as though Todd Haley could be looking for his replacement in Johnathan Franklin out of UCLA.
Franklin is a 5’10” 205lb back out of UCLA who started 45 games and owns the school’s single-season rushing and career rushing records. He followed in the footsteps of another small back, Maurice Jones-Drew from UCLA. Franklin is described as a one-cut type of runner and has had some issues with ball security in his college career. Most likely, the Steelers will be pursuing a running back in the 2nd or 3rd round, which is where Franklin is projected to be available. Franklin might not be a starting-caliber running back, but the Steelers could still be in the process of signing a back like Ahmad Bradshaw and Franklin might be a good addition to add to the crew in terms of change of pace, and his possible kick return abilities.
We all know that great NFL running backs do not grow on trees and sometimes you can unearth a hidden gem in the later rounds of the draft like Tampa Bay did last season with Doug Martin. If Haley likes his small backs, he had better have a better plan for them than he did last season. I feel last year’s rushing game was one of the most crucial weaknesses of the overall offense. Granted, the nonstop offensive lineman Tetris that seems to have to go on every friggin season does have a lot to do with the inconsistencies in the running game but I think one thing we can all agree on is that the Steelers do not have a franchise-type back on the roster right now and that’s something we’re not used to.
What do you think, Steeler Nation? Would a back like Johnathan Franklin enhance the Steelers running game?