Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 Offseason Positional Review - The Running Backs

We continue our assessment of the Pittsburgh Steelers roster with a look at the running backs. 

Other positional reviews: Tight Ends, Wide Receivers

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Rashard Mendenhall:

Age and 2009 Stats:  23 years old; 242 attempts, 1108 yards, 4.7 Y/A; 7 TDs; 25 receptions, 261 yards, 1 TD

Contract Status: Signed through 2011

2009 Analysis: There were plenty of disappointing developments throughout the course of the 2009 season for the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers. The play of 2nd year running back Rashard Mendenhall wasn't one of them. After missing almost all of his rookie year due to injury, Mendenhall proved this past year why the team drafted him in the 1st round of the 2008 draft. He ran hard, stayed healthy, and generally proved that he's more than capable of shouldering the load offensively if given the chance. Mendenhall also disaplyed a nice set of hands in the passing game, though I'd contend that his pass catching skills were under-utilized by Bruce Arians and the offense this past year - particularly when you consider the pass protection issues the team had and how more frequent use of screens and dumpoffs to him and/or the other running backs might have slowed down the pass rush from opposing teams. Anyway, Mendenhall's solid 2009 season makes it much easier for the organization to pencil him in as the future of the Steelers backfield for years to come.

2010 Outlook: With members of the Rooney clan promising the team will return to its smashmouth ways moving forward, and with a new offensive line coach that I feel will do a better job coaching up our big eaters up front, I'd imagine Mendenhall's carries will increase from the ~250 he got in 2009 to somewhere over 300 attempts in '10. If Mendenhall can continue to improve his ball security while spinning and fighting for extra yardage, I see no reason why he won't eclipse the 1,200-1,300 yard plateau next season.

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Willie Parker

Age and 2009 Stats: 29 years old; 98 attempts, 389 yards, 4.0 Y/A; 0 TDs; 6 receptions, 65 yards, 0 TDs

Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

2009 Analysis: 2009 was all about seeing what the team had in Rashard Mendenhall. That meant phasing out Willie Parker to a large degree, particularly following Mendy's breakout game against the San Diego Chargers in Week 4.  This season, Parker had a cap hit of over $4 million, which I don't don't need to tell you vastly outweighed his productivity. That said, I was personally impressed with the way he was running by year's end. Problem is, we don't really know if his body would be able to hold up if he were asked to rush the ball 150-200 times over the course of a season in the event Mendenhall got injured. If 2009 was in fact Parker's final year in the Black and Gold, then a hearty salute to what he was able to accomplish as an undrafted free agent rookie out of North Carolina, most notably, his 75 yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XL that broke open the game against the Seahawks.

2010 Outlook: As it becomes more and more likely that 2010 will be an uncapped year in the NFL, what does that mean for Willie Parker's future - either in Pittsburgh or elsewhere? On the one hand, it might mean that the team is able to give him a 2 or 3 year deal somewhere in the $4-6 million dollar range. On the other hand, it might mean that some other team is willing to part ways with a bit more cash than they might otherwise be able to do given the salary cap. I don't know though - teams may not be as smart as the Steelers at managing their financial and personnel resources, but it's no secret around the league that you need at least two (and ideally three) capable running backs to make it through a grueling 16 game schedule. Those second and third running backs can easily be found in the later rounds of the draft, not to mention amongst a large crop of undrafted free agents (like Parker was himself). So I think Parker may be disappointed if he's hoping to cash in elsewhere this free agency season. If he does in fact find a suitor willing to pay him, by all means he should take the money and run. He deserves it. If not, hopefully he's excited to come back to Pittsburgh for less money than he might think he deserves and team up with Mendenhall in what should be an improved and more steady rushing attack in '10 and '11.

Mewelde Moore:

Age and 2009 Stats: 27 years old, 35 attempts, 118 yards, 3.4 Y/A, 0 TDs; 21 receptions, 153 yards, 2 TDs

Contract status: Signed through 2010

2009 Analysis:  Moore was again a jack of all trades for the Steelers in 2009. He ran it some, caught the ball adeptly, blocked fairly well and contributed on special teams here and there. I thought he looked less explosive though this year than he did in 2008. That's not to say he was ever a threat to take the ball to the house. But that's the thing - with his limited speed to begin with, a guy like Moore really needs to be playing close to 100% health wise to make an impact. I'm not sure if anything was bothering him physically this year or what. Who knows, it may just be my imagination that he looked a step slower.

2010 Outlook: Moore should again be a prominent fixture in the Steelers offense in 2010, particularly if the front office decides not to re-sign Willie Parker. I'd guess that even if they do not bring FWP back, somebody else will be signed or drafted to spell Mendenhall as the #2 ball carrier. But whoever that is will not be as familiar with the Steelers offense; nor will they have earned the trust and confidence of the coaching staff like Moore has this past two years. To me, that means we'll see Moore quite a bit next year regardless of what happens with the other running backs on the roster. 

Isaac Redman

Age and 2009 Stats: 25 years old; no 2009 statistics

2009 Analysis: Redman spent the entire year on the practice squad.

2010 Outlook: From cgolden's recent post about the signing of ten players to future's contracts:

Redman was signed last year by the Steelers after being undrafted but spent all but one game on the practice squad. The 6-0, 230 pound back is a bit of a FB/RB tweener but he was set numerous school records at FCS Bowie State. He started to gain some notoriety after an impressive training camp and there was even some thought that he might not clear waivers but the team was able to stash him on the practice squad all season long. It will be interesting to see what roles he fills, if any, in 2010.

I'll just add that Redman is fairly old for a rookie. He'll turn 26 during the 2010 season, so I'd imagine that it's just about now or never for him.

Justin Vincent

Age and 2009 Stats: 27 years old (in a few short days, that is); no 2009 statistics

2009 Analysis: Like Redman, Vincent spent all of '09 on the practice squad.

2010 Outlook: Again, from cgolden:

Vincent has spent most of the past two seasons on the Steelers' practice squad after being undrafted in 2007. By now I'm sure we all know his story (great freshman season at LSU and then three unproductive, inconsistent seasons). The 5-10, 219 pound back would most likely have to make a significant impact on special teams in order to have any shot of making the roster, but it's interesting that this staff has kept him around for three years.

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