The Pittsburgh Steelers are desperately in the market for a back up running back. After the departures of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer and ACL torn free agent Larod Stephens-Howling (yet to be re-signed by the team), the Steelers brought in former Jacksonville Jaguar Maurice Jones Drew. MJD left without a contract – more than likely because he wants starter-like money and a larger role than just being the second option of the 1-2 punch the offense is looking for. The Steelers have expressed interest in Patriots free agent LeGarrette Blount, and when comparing the two options, Blount just might be the better fit in Pittsburgh.
The former Oregon Duck was picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in 2010 as an UDFA. Blount ran for just over 1,000 yards in just 13 games, averaging 5.0 yards on 201 attempts. Blount was traded to New England in 2013 after having a pretty bad 2012. He was traded for Pats running back Dempsy and a seventh round pick. While that may look bad on the resume, Blount’s slow fade in Tampa was predicated by the removal of former head coach Raheem Morris, who loved Blount as his featured back. I’m not too worried about Blount being ‘moved around’ and the fact that the Pats aren’t interested in re-signing him.
Blount’s bruiser style of running for the Patriots accumulated 772 yards and 7 TD’s on 153 attempts. Well hey, look at that, there’s that 5.0 yards per carry showing up again. You might also remember that Blount rushed for 166 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries in a playoff victory over the Indianapolis Colts in January. In an offense that is built around Tom Brady attempting over 30 passes every game, the Pats have never been a strong running team and don’t have the offensive line for it either. However, they found themselves ranked 9th in the running game between Blount’s and Stevan Ridley’s effeorts.
Could the 255 lb. Blount be the next Jerome Bettis with his bruising pile moving style of running, complemented with a surprising burst of speed once in the open? Doubtful. He doesn’t quite possess the nimble footwork that Bettis had, but man he can still lower that shoulder and run hard. Besides, Bell is the featured guy, and I’m confident that Steeler Nation won’t be clamoring over this guy to run the ball unless it is a short yardage situation. Blount would be a very good compliment to Bell, and a much better fit than MJD . He was part of a 1-2 punch system in New England and would have that role if in Pittsburgh. For the sake of attitude, that bodes well over acquiring a former starter like MJD who may not like hanging out on the sidelines the majority of a game – even if he were to get paid well for it.
Blount was scheduled to meet with the team early this week, but that has been pushed all the way to Friday because Tomlin and Colbert are not in town due to league meetings. That may mean nothing, but that could also mean everything for this deal to happen. Tomlin’s and Colbert’s in-person presence (rather than phone meetings) tells me at least that the team is very interested in making sure Blount does not leave Pittsburgh without a contract. It’s a good addition and an unexpected one from the start of free agency if it happens.