PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 09: Jonathan Dwyer #27 of the Pittsburgh Steelers evades a tackle by Cortland Finnegan #31 of the Tennessee Titans during the game on October 9, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
The Steelers 2012 Draft drew praise from experts and fans alike for the team's ability to miraculously land Stanford guard David DeCastro with the 24th pick in the first round. Pittsburgh also snagged Ohio State tackle Mike Adams in the 2nd round. There was a bit of a concern about Adams because of "character issues," but most fans were still happy with the pick because, well, he's just so darn talented.
However, the Steelers may have saved their best for the 5th round when they selected Florida tailback Chris Rainey. Rainey, a Combine sensation in February, was considered by many to be one of the steals of the 2012 Draft.
This is nothing new for the Steelers in recent years. If there's a running back out there still hanging around late in the draft, the Steelers have had the presence of mind to steal him away from everyone else.
Just last year, the Steelers selected Texas Tech running back Baron Batch in the 7th round. He was obviously a real steal that late in the draft, and with his ability to write an awesome blog, Steelers fans couldn't wait to witness what this kid had to offer.
Of course, Rainey and Batch aren't pioneers in the "running back who was a late-round steal" department. Nope, that distinction--at least in recent years--goes to Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer, a third year back out of Georgia Tech, was stealing drafts back when Rainey and Batch were both still knee-high to a tackling dummy.
It's nice that the Steelers have stolen three really talented running backs in the last three drafts, but the odds of all three becoming productive members of the team are pretty slim. I mean, let's face it, Isaac Redman already casts a very huge shadow in the Steelers offensive backfield. You talk about a steal. The guy is an undrafted free agent out of Bowie State who is big, fast (but not so fast that he turns Steelers fans off), and did this to a number of Ravens a couple of years ago.
Redman's popularity in Steeler Nation is almost unrivaled--even by guys who have more than three career touchdowns-- and there won't be room in the backfield for all three of these late round steals. But if one of these guys can endear himself to Steelers fans and become a poor man's Redman, his chances of making the team will increase dramatically.
Join me as I offer each late round steal some advice to help increase his chances:
You may be the original "running back who was a late round steal," but this is a "what have you done for me lately" business, and what have you done? Forget about being the steal of the entire 2010 draft, you weren't even the steal of the Steelers 2010 draft. Heck, you weren't even the team's best 6th round draft choice that year. That distinction belongs to Antonio Brown. And in case you haven't noticed, Brown is the Redman of the Steelers wide receivers. Sure, you're the only one of the three who has even played in the NFL, but at 229 pounds, you're dangerously close to Redman's 230. And since he fills the team role as "running back who doesn't dance around like that Mendenhall," there isn't a need for another. The last thing you want to do is threaten Sir Isaac's spot on the roster. That's no way to endear yourself to the fans. Yes, you did have that 76 yard run in the Titans game last year, but you didn't score, and don't think that Steelers fans will just let that go. Sure, Redman got caught at the goal line in the playoff game in Denver last year, but when he gets caught from behind, it shows character. When you get caught from behind, it shows that you're slow and fat. Maybe, like Batch, some non-football type of talent will help endear you to the fans. Do you blog? Maybe you're a closet stand-up comedian. If you can do a mean Mike Tomlin impression, now's the time to let that puppy out of the bag.
You quickly became everyone's darling last year, and for good reason. The things that you had to overcome just to make it to Texas Tech were truly amazing. And as I mentioned earlier, you're an awesome blogger, and we at BTSC can certainly appreciate that. Steelers fans quickly fell in love with your inspirational stories and your charismatic personality. And once training camp got underway, and you showed your potential, we couldn't wait to see what you had in store for us once the real games started. Unfortunately, you blew out your knee near the end of camp, and you were forced to miss the entire 2011 season. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, at least in terms of your legend. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and your absence from the 2011 roster only made Steelers fans want to see you in action even more. I'd say you're the odds on favorite to truly win our hearts. However, you must be careful with this whole blogging phenomenon. The injury and your continued excellent blogging worked in your favor last year, but another injury could lead to fans calling talk shows and asking, "Don't you think the constant blogging is causing Batch's muscles to atrophy? Do you think that's why he's so injury prone? Isn't there a clause in his contract that states that he must wear a helmet when he blogs?" Also, every blogger must beware of the potential for carpel tunnel syndrome. If it can pose a danger to your average secretary, imagine what it can do to a running back who specializes in catching passes out of the backfield.
You, sir, are the newest "running back who was a late round steal," and much like the youngest sibling who gets away with more, this could work to your advantage. You'll obviously have at least one year to prove you were worth the 5th round pick that the Steelers spent on you. The only problem is you're extremely fast. You might be thinking that will work to your advantage. But you're not from around here. You don't know Steelers fans. In Steeler Country, a back who runs a 4.3 40 is someone who should be a receiver, especially if he is only 5'8 and 180 pounds. Even if you break off a 90 yard run, unless you run over a few defenders, it probably won't impress us very much. Just ask Willie Parker. From what I've heard and read, you are pretty funny and quick-witted. This could win you some fans, but it could also work against you. When things are going well, you're quick-witted and a good sound-byte that reporters will naturally gravitate to. However, when a reporter asks you for the 1000th time if you'd benefit from a move to receiver, you could quickly become "bitter and sarcastic" if you answer the question with any sort of venom. Also, I'd get rid of your Twitter account if I were you. Trust me. No amount of speed will be able to out-run a controversial Tweet.
Well, there you have it. Which one of these guys has what it takes to win us over and increase his chances of making the team? Only time will tell.