clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Christian McCaffrey and the Steelers would make a great pair

The Steelers need depth at receiver and running back, so why not get them a man who can do both?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Christian McCaffrey demands your respect.

The 2015 Heisman finalist told reporters during the NFL Combine last month that he feels “disrespected” compared to some of his peers.

“I feel like a lot of people don't give me credit for my skills and talents," McCaffrey said. "That's just the way it is."

McCaffrey is ranked no higher than third—behind LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook—on the vast majority of prospect listings. And that’s a shame, because there aren’t many running backs who exhibit a skillset similar to that of McCaffrey. The team that drafts McCaffrey will get a very good running back and a very good receiver. Few NFL players can make that claim.

The Steelers already have one of the best multi-talented running backs in the league in Le’Veon Bell, who, as of writing, is set to play the 2017 season on the franchise tag. So, while running back isn’t a major need for the Steelers, there is certainly a black cloud hanging over the long-term stability of the position.

Even if the Steelers and Bell do hash out an extension, adding another running back—especially one like McCaffrey—wouldn’t be a bad idea. Drafting a running back in the first round, 30th overall, is a long shot for the Steelers, but McCaffrey would be a good fit.

If anyone you know has compared McCaffrey to Danny Woodhead, slap that person across the face. That is a lazy, totally inaccurate comparison. McCaffrey’s speed is certainly not “deceptive” and he does not qualify as “gritty.” His Combine performance tells the story of one of the best pure athletes in the draft, and his college production is unmatched (he has accrued almost 6,000 all-purpose yards and 30 touchdowns over the past two seasons). The dude is a legitimate football player.

The most common knock against McCaffrey is his build (5-foot-11 or 6-foot on the dot, depending on your source, and 200 pounds). In other words, he doesn’t have much experience as a blocker (as it wont to happen when your team’s entire offense is designed to get you the football) and won’t break very many tackles.

But, that kind of profiling must be taken in proper context. Jamaal Charles—who I think is an accurate professional comparison for McCaffrey, albeit with less straight-line speed—is far from a power runner, but boasts an outstanding 5.5 yards per carry average for his career. The team that drafts McCaffrey probably won’t deploy him as a three-down back, but will use him to fill a variety of positions. The Steelers could use some depth at running back and receiver, so McCaffrey would fill two voids simultaneously. Get you a man who can do both, ya know?

Pittsburgh has other needs, many of which are debatably more pressing than running back. With that said, McCaffrey, much like Liam Neeson in Taken, has a very particular set of skills, which sets him apart from some of the draft’s other top running backs. While the Steelers definitely aren’t McCaffrey’s likeliest destination, the move does make sense.