It’s not any secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to be looking at the NFL draft for a running back. The question everyone will be asking is just how early in the draft do you grab one?
The days of the 25-carry a game running back are over in the NFL but you still have to be able to run the ball effectively and efficiently to be successful. There’s no sure-fire hit in this class, but I feel there are numerous guys who could look really good in the black ‘n gold.
With the supposed switch to the zone blocking system, that means the Steelers will be looking for specific types of backs. Whether the guys I’ve chosen to discuss fit that profile is yet to be determined in some cases.
Eddie Lacy (ALA) – Lacy’s stock blew up following his monster BCS Title game performance against Notre Dame but the truth is that his stock was already rising. At 220lbs., Lacy has excellent power but what I really like about him are his feet which I find very quick for a guy his size. What concerns me is blocking and pass protection.
Giovani Bernard (UNC) – I really like his elusiveness which he combines with really good leg drive. Rarely stopped on first contact. Good open field runner and catches the ball well too. Injury history worries me a little bit though.
Jonathan Franklin (UCLA) – I really like his elusiveness at the line of scrimmage and in the open field. Catches the ball well out of the backfield and has a nice burst. Size worries me a little and he tends to bounce plays outside a lot which worked in college but will not at pro level.
Joseph Randle (OKST) -I like Randle both as a runner and pass catcher and this combination is something the Steelers have lacked for years. He has good speed and some elusiveness but tends to run upright a little in my opinion which might not bode well in the NFL where pads have to be low.
Montee Ball (WIS) – First thing that strikes me is the mileage. As is the case with most Wisconsin backs, he has had a ton of carries in his career. With that said, he produces. He only graded out to a 3rd round pick last year and returned to school. I’m not sure he’ll improve on that much this time around. Could be a steal with his zone running experience.
Andre Ellington (CLEM) – This is a guy who is a good runner, pass catcher and kick returner. Significantly bigger than was Chris Rainey, but not as fast. Pass protection skills are average at best, but he could be a nice all-around type of back in the middle rounds.
Stepfan Taylor (STAN) – He might be the most well-rounded back in the draft. He runs hard, has decent speed and blocks in pas protection very well. The knock is that he doesn’t posses great speed or elusiveness and sometimes lacks the leg drive to get a few yards. I’ll be very curious to see where his career goes.
Ray Graham (PITT) – Many of our readers probably have better takes on him than I do, but there’s something I do like about him. My biggest question is durability as he has dealt with injuries. Not a big guy, but runs hard, can be elusive and catches the ball well too. His 40-time could be a key for where he goes in the draft.
Other guys to keep an eye on… Mike Gillislee (UF), Le’Veon Bell (MSU),
One way or another the Steelers will more than likely have some new faces in the backfield in 2013.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.