The run game sucked last year. Really bad.
How bad you ask? The 2012 Steelers recorded the second worst total rush yards in team history for 16 game seasons, besting the nightmare 2003 season by 47 yards. Remember that season, we earned the Roethlisberger pick and started 6 different defenders in 2004. Not a great year.
We could take solace in a higher yards per attempt than both 2003 and 2008, but that also shows we had more confidence in the run in 2008 than in 2012.
In spite of our futility, there is hope, and evidence that this team can be a big time rushing offense without new RB blood.
The first five games of the season the Steelers had the same starting five on the offensive line: Starks, Colon, Pouncey, Foster Gilbert. In those five games they recorded one 100 yard game, and averaged 74.8 ypg. That average would have placed us last in the NFL, the Cardinals averaged 75.3, league average was 115.9.
Then something happened, Marcus Gilbert was replaced by Mike Adams for week 7. The next five games the Steelers would record four 100 yard games and average 138.8 ypg. That average would be good enough for 6th in the league. The only variation on that line was a single start at C for Legursky vs. Cincinatti.
The next game would still include Adams, but replace Colon with Legursky, the debacle at Cleveland that included 49 rush yards.
Adams would not play again, and the team would not cross 100 yards rushing again. The last two games of the season, with DeCastro finding his groove a bit the Steelers did turn in two 90+ yard games to avoid the lowest rushing total of the 16 game era.
What the Steelers need to have a successful running game is a Healthy Mike Adams at RT, and a good run blocking Guard. Max Starks has been the picture of a consistent and solid LT, Pouncey when Healthy is great, and when active is solid at the worst. With a stud run blocker at RT and a good run-blocking guard at LG this team can eat up yards on the ground.
The problem is our line is never healthy. Maybe changing OL coaches will help with that, or maybe luck will finally swing our way again, who knows?
The truth is that for 5 games last year we were a top ten rushing team, and that was with a banged up and constantly rotating RB group.
My argument against making a major investment in a RB this year is that with an OL situation like last year only an all-time great running back is going to turn in a good year, and we aren't getting one of those at 17 in this years draft. With a stable OL that includes our young talents being healthy we can be a run first offense with Redman and Dwyer. We did it last year.
I'm not saying we have to keep both Redman and Dwyer, or even that we need to ditch Mendy, My point is that we don't need a major investment in RB right now. If we can keep Redman we should, he wasn't 100% last year and still ran hard and is a great back to have, he also catches and blocks well. Dwyer I can live with, he's inconsistent but improved a lot last year. I'd be OK with keeping him, or with replacing him in FA with a non-expensive runner.
With our current roster situation there is much more to be gained in the short and long term by investing money and draft picks in other places, I'd personally rather see us draft a Guard high than a RB.
Looking at our roster we need a WR, NT, ILB, OLB, and I'd love to see a young safety, another CB, and if a good OL is there, one of them.
Lastly, in hope for next year let's go back to 2003. Marvel Smith becoming a starter and a little OL stability would turn our franchise worst, and league 2nd worst rushing offense(Remember Detroit?) into the eighth best franchise mark, and 2nd in the league in 2004. I think Mike Adams and David DeCastro can have that kind of impact on this line.