Steelers running back depth still thin, but it still may not be worth spending a draft pick

Gregory Shamus

The market for running backs has shrunk down considerably. The Steelers have their two main runners for the 2014 season, and there are still good running backs available in free agency. Add in undrafted free agency, and it may not be worth spending a pick on one.

The Steelers made some waves in free agency, to put it mildly. A franchise that barely registers a headline during the first few days of the league's open signing period measured highly on the Richter scale, bringing in, among others, safety Mike Mitchell and Cam Thomas.

The buzz surrounding both of those players is more due to the fact there was buzz than what he players bring to the team. Solid signings, but the news was in the rarity of moves made so quickly in free agency.

They doubled those efforts a bit later in free agency bringing in LeGarrette Blount, an outstanding running back, for dirt cheap, relatively speaking. This Steelers team appears poised to run the ball frequently, much of which being done by the combination of "LeBackfield," Blount and second-year stud Le'Veon Bell.

But the Steelers really don't have much after that, giving the impression they will invest in a running back in this draft.

Adding another one, particularly a receiving threat who can return kicks, would give the Steelers one of the youngest running backs rotations in the NFL. At a time in the history of the game when the position has taken an enormous step back in terms of market value (Jacksonville signed Toby Gerhart to the biggest free agency deal, and he received a little over $4 million a season from a team with $50 million in cap space). It's almost as if, in a few years if not right now, the draft pick itself will be worth more than the running back taken.

In other words, "why spend a draft pick on a running back when there are so many of them in free agency?"

That rhetorical question is asked in reverse about many positions in the game.

Still, it's a physically demanding position and for as young as Bell is, he's only three years away from free agency. The Steelers have Blount for just two more seasons, and he has yet to take a snap with the Steelers. The rookie they'll allegedly draft (just a prediction) will have a four-year contract. The Steelers have fullback Will Johnson signed through this season before he becomes one of the few restricted free agents left in the NFL.

It's a position that is quickly becoming a revolving door around the league, driving its value way down in terms of contracts. The Steelers will likely draft a running back, but it seems to make more sense to simply wait until after the draft to grab one, or even a few, in undrafted free agency.

This is a franchise that's done that to a good-to-outstanding level of success. So why spend the pick?

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