The biggest question facing the running back position for the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers isn’t who is number one and it isn’t who is number two. The question is who fills that third running back spot which will certainly depend on how Mike Tomlin configures his roster.
It’s expected that rookie Dri Archer will be listed as a running back although we expect to see him line up just about every where within the rules of NFL offense.
With Le’Veon Bell entering as the ‘feature’ back of the Steelers and free agent signing LeGarrette Blount fitting perfectly into the role of ‘short-yardage’ guy, do the Steelers need another traditional running back?
Not since Willie Parker have the Steelers entered the season this confident with their running game. We were supposed to feel that way with Rashard Mendenhall but outside of a few flashes we never really got there.
Understand first that Archer isn’t a ‘traditional’ running back. With his small size and stature, he is not going to carry the ball 15-20 per game and expect to find success. It is my hope that Todd Haley uses Archer a hell of a lot better than he did Chris Rainey.
Some will tell you Rainey was used more traditionally due to issues with other running backs but I can only buy that to a certain degree.
Archer must be moved around the formation, put into motion and used in space where he can use his quickness and electrifying speed. Haley never accomplished this with Rainey so our faith that he can do this with Archer is teetering.
I do expect sets that feature both Blount and Bell in the backfield at the same time but I can’t see this happening a lot. More likely is a scenario where Archer lines up in the backfield with one of them.
Blount is the type of runner that needs space and an offensive line that moves people allowing him to hit holes at full speed. If the line can’t do that then Blount could struggle. Bell will continue to be a guy who does everything. He proved how good he was catching the ball out of the backfield last season and that will continue this coming season as well.
Other backs on the roster heading into camp include Alvester Alexander, Jordan Hall, Miguel Maysonet and Tauren Poole. Of the group, only Hall is a rookie. Alexander would seem to have a head start as he was on the practice squad on and off last season.
Both Poole and Maysonet spent time last season bouncing around practice squads around the league.
If Tomlin chooses to list Archer among the wide receivers then I expect to see Bell, Blount and fullback Will Johnson as the running backs knowing that Archer will see time in the backfield. I know the staff likes Alexander but again, it will just depend on how Tomlin wants to put the roster together.
Of the three other guys, they will be fighting it out to stay on the practice squad depending upon eligibility of course.
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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 weekly on Trib-Live Radio talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.