LaRod Stephens-Howling is a good pickup by General Manager Kevin Colbert and an addition to Todd Haley's offense that could come in handy throughout the season. The versatility of a running back group is often imperative to the success of an offensive unit. The Steelers are no exception of that rule. creditPeter Diana of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The Steelers' third down back during the run to win Super Bowl XLIII was No. 21 Mewelde Moore, who often was quite useful for the offense to succeed. During the 2008 season alone MeWelde Moore accounted for 588 yards rushing and 320 yards receiving. He was a solid 3rd down option for Ben Roethlisberger and a viable backup running back who put together a performance in his first start with Steelers where he scored three touchdowns and ran for over 100 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals. He was the ideal versatile back for Roethlisberger to throw a screen to, or for Bruce Arians to rely on for a draw to convert on third down.
Moore's tenure with the Steelers ended after the 2011 season when he left with Bruce Arians to the Indianapolis Colts. The Steelers drafted Chris Rainey with the hope that he could become the speed back to take the place of Moore as a third down option for Roethlisberger, but have since released the rookie and are left with no real threat as a third down back. Enter Stephens-Howling.
As a native of Western Pennsylvania, and former running back for the Panthers of the University of Pittsburgh, Stephens-Howling's signing with Pittsburgh is a true homecoming. However the Steelers didn't sign him as a novelty hometown hero, the Johnstown native knows he is going to be tested as the third down x-factor running back. Stephens-Howling is faster than Moore was in 2008 and will also be a threat on special teams as a returner.
Stephens-Howling brings a combination of veteran experience and playmaker speed to the Steelers backfield that will be needed on occasion to capitalize on defenses who can preoccupied with the offenses other threats. In his limited roles with the Arizona Cardinals, the former Pittsburgh Panther was able to be productive in his four seasons on a team that hasn't had a solid quarterback since Kurt Warner, and only premier offensive player has been Larry Fitzgerald (another former Pittsburgh Panther).
The Steelers won't rely on Stephens-Howling to be a Willie Parker or a feature back. But he can be a utility player that makes the occasional extra play for the offense. Those occasional plays can end up being difference makers on third downs that decide the fate of games; and plays that decide the fate of games can help decide the tone of a season.