Continuing our look at each position on the field, we’ll stay on the offensive side of the ball and breakdown the running back spot.
The Steelers appear to be pretty deep at the position and the real question will be how many backs will they keep vs. who will be the number one guy?
Here’s a breakdown of each player currently holding down a spot as a running back:
LeVeon Bell – Bell is the clear starter and there are no ifs ands or buts about it. Bell played in 13 games in his rookie campaign and boasted over 800 yards rushing and nearly 400 receiving while totaling nine touchdowns. His yards per carry average was a bit low at 3.5 but expect that to improve. Assuming Bell stays healthy, he could be a 1,200 yard back. His receiving yards will most likely go down with the addition of a few other weapons but there is no question that Bell will be a big part of the Steelers offensive plans in 2014 and he will be expected to take some of the pressure off of Big Ben.
LaGarrette Blount – Blount was brought in from New England as a free agent and he’s a viable number two guy who can certainly fill in for Bell if called upon. Last year in New England, Blount averaged 5.0 yards per carry and gained 772 yards total. He’s a big back, weighing 250 pounds, whose initial role will be short yardage and goal line scenarios. However, should Bell struggle or get hurt, Blount will be the next man up and he’s proven that he can get the job done when called upon.
Dri Archer – Archer is more of a hybrid who can be listed at running back or wide receiver. The rookie burner will most likely play a third down role in this offense along with special teams play. Don’t look for Archer to be given too many carries, he may grab 20 or 30 for the year, but look for him to see a lot of touches in the air. His speed will provide Big Ben a great outlet on third downs out of the backfield or in the slot. Archer will also undoubtedly be used on a few trick plays throughout the season as well, perhaps in wildcat formations, as the team did with Bell last season.
Jordan Hall – Hall is a rookie back out of Ohio State. I fully expect the team to keep four backs on the active roster, specifically because Archer isn’t a true back. Hall has as good a shot as anyone to gain that number four job and he’s my favorite to do so. He played in a run heavy offense at OSU, he’s the youngest of the remaining backs so there’s a development aspect to it and he’s a little faster than the other backs he’s competing with. With Bell and Blount already being big backs, the team may go for a second smaller back and Hall is that guy.
Miguel Maysonet– Maysonet is a guy competing with Hall for that fourth spot. He’ll be given his opportunities in camp and pre season but will have to prove his worth on special teams. If he can shine there, he may get the nod. In the end Maysonet will most likely be a practice squad player or just released outright.
Tauren Poole – Poole is a guy to keep your eye on. He’s entering his third year but has bounced around practice squads in his first two seasons. He does have talent and is truly a guy who could get a couple of carries if need be but he, like Maysonet will need to prove his worth on special teams play. I think he’s Hall’s closest competition for the fourth spot but at the end of the day he will be released.
The black and gold should feel very delighted with the top half of their running back depth chart as they have two powerful, accomplished backs at the top. With Archer as a burner out of the backfield and a few guys to choose from to fill out for depth, the Steelers seem to be in decent shape at this position heading into camp and beyond.
Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association www.steelnationassociation.com- Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.