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Steelers Running Backs Battle Could Get Thinner Due to Injuries


After the recent uptick in action concerning the fullbacks and tight ends, it's easy to see how the prize horses, the tail backs, can be passed over in terms of talking points.

That script could flip around very easily though.

There's been loads of discussion surrounding the stable of talented running backs the Steelers have in training camp this year. Rashard Mendenhall's knee injury got him placed on the PUP list, where is currently resides. That gave Isaac Redman the starting job, and the battle for depth behind him is intense.

It just may have gotten a bit lighter though, as second-year RB John Clay went down with a hip/groin injury, Gerry Dulac reported Tuesday.

He joins Redman and Jonathan Dwyer on the Steelers' preseason injury list. While the extent of these injuries is not yet known, it is clearly a chance for rookies Baron Batch and Chris Rainey to show their skills as feature backs.

It remains to be seen whether these injuries will keep Dwyer and Clay out of action in Pittsburgh's Sunday Night preseason game against Indianapolis, but the best value Batch and Rainey may have in a competition where it appears at least one running back will be released is the fact they're healthy.

You can't fault a guy for being hurt, which is exactly why you have to respect a guy who isn't. Neither Rainey nor Batch looked impressive running between the tackles behind porous Steelers run blocking units in their preseason loss at Philadelphia, and it doesn't appear either would have that kind of a role should they make the team in 2012, but any opportunity they could get to show their value should be seen as an advantage.

Dwyer looked poised and controlled against Philadelphia, establishing himself as the likely candidate for 3RB behind Mendenhall and Redman (2RB until Mendenhall returns). Batch showed a lack of fear pounding the ball between the tackles but ran a little high on a few short-yardage situations in which he had some room to move forward. Rainey, the slightest of the four candidates, simply won't be used in an ideal situation between the tackles.

Clay's advantage is his size. He probably would have gotten a few more looks against Indianapolis than he got against Philadelphia, and depending on his injury, he still might.