Mr. Rooney wants his run game. He probably thought he must have left any luck of having one last year back in Ireland. I don’t care about evolution of the game, in Pittsburgh, we pound the football. With the Offensive Line getting a lot of Draft treatment the last several years, let’s pick on another group that simply has to deliver.
PICK A POSITION: RUNNING BACKS
You know your running game is this bad when… well, when it’s this bad. So bad, I can’t even bring myself to elicit statistical reference here. The Pittsburgh Steelers are in dire need of improving on their paltry run production. A forced “run-by-committee” campaign last year between Dwyer, Redman, Mendenhall and Rainey provided less than desirable results in an area the Steelers put intended increased focus and commitment. In 2013, a productive run game is paramount to a return to the AFC Playoff picture, but where does Pittsburgh stand in this position heading into the upcoming NFL Draft?
RAMPING UP THE RUN GAME
Believe it or not, I’m optimistic about our backfield next season. Let’s face it, it isn’t going to get any worse. That, combined with better, consistent line play upfront and what I expect to be an improved Jonathan Dwyer (to go with a special position add prior to camp), and our running game doesn’t have to dominate statistically (which, remember, i refuse to use in this article anyway). It does need to be explosive at times, it absolutely needs to be “3rd&1″ and “4th&Inches” physical all the time, it needs to make catches out of the backfield and it needs to never, ever, ever fumble the rock.
- (RB) Jonathan Dwyer: JD has been a fave of mine coming out Georgia Tech in 2010 in the 6th Round; his ramblings for the Wreck in ACC play had me hoping he would end up as a great complimentary piece to Mendenhall. While on the field taking snaps, Dwyer has taunted us with glimpses of what he is capable of: consecutive 100+ yard games with a faint deference to the style of Jerome Bettis, physical yet nimble. Apparently his conditioning prevented him from staying in for successive possessions, and an untimely injury forced him into a RB carousel the rest of the year. Jonathan jumped right onto signing his tender this off season, acknowledging he has potential in being our Game 1 Starter that carries through 16 (games). I’m expecting our Offensive Line to be a big part of a much improved running attack in 2013; Jonathan Dwyer in top conditioning and escaping injury is the other big factor. Regardless of Draft or Free Agency potential, Dwyer has to be highly productive. I think JD gets it done for us this year.
- (RB) Isaac Redman: Redman just brings it. Rarely do you see this guy take a carry for a loss. Hopefully Isaac follows Dwyer’s lead and signs his tender to be in Camp come June. In Hailey’s “use your available weapons” approach, Redman is going to get his carries. If he plays like he has for us in the past when given such opportunities, Big Red has made plays… we watched from a handful of rows up and a 45 yard line vantage of Redman refusing to go down after the catch in Baltimore, converting a hot read from Big Ben into the game winner and classic Steeler road victory (13-10 Pittsburgh, 2010). In the AFC North, we are going to have games that come down to single plays just like that; Redman is a player that can really help here, and that folks, just wins football games.
- (RB) Baron Batch: yes, I love him just as much as anyone since his first Camp. Unfortunately, out of absolute necessity we will be putting greater emphasis on Dwyer and Redman and very likely be making a “value-add” here via Draft or on the condition of one Ahmad Bradshaw’s healing foot.
- (FB) Will Johnson: picked up by the Steelers as an Undrafted Free Agent from West Virginia, Will had a great Rookie Season for Pittsburgh, drawing direct praise from Colbert and what should give him plenty of confidence from the Coaches to expand his contributions at fullback – he actually plays like a Tight End. Another +1 for an improved running game.
- (FB/TE) David Johnson: losing David in preseason was tough; he’s lost his job for good to Will Johnson at FB, but has been resigned to Pittsburgh and should get time at Tight End with Heath Miller on the mend.