Disclaimer: The author realizes that the team is burning in Salary Cap Hell and can’t pony up much money for free agents. However, you never know what they have planned and it’s the author’s responsibility to highlight the free agent options. It’s like the lyric in the Howard Jones song, “No One Is To Blame”...You can look at the menu, but you just can’t eat.
The Steelers have a conundrum when it comes to the position of running back. With a health question mark in James Conner, the possibly-promising Bennie Snell, the head scratcher that is Jaylen Samuels and the speedy (but unpolished) Kerrith Whyte in the backfield, one has to wonder what the team does. Do they draft one? To they stand pat and hope for health? Do they pray that a rich uncle comes out of the woodwork and they somehow find money for a deep RB class? That last one is so unlikely to happen. However, here are the list of available free agents should a Steel City Money Miracle occur.
Derrick Henry - Tennessee Titans
2019 Rushing - 15 games, 1,540 yards, 5.1 yards per attempt, 16 touchdowns
2019 Receiving - 15 games, 18 receptions, 206 yards, 2 touchdowns
Henry is going to get PAID! I can see him remaining in the Music City, but the open market is like Bourbon Street...if you are there, you definitely gotta check it out. There’s not enough money in a million Steeler couch cushions for the man that eliminated both the Patriots and the Ravens from the playoffs. Too bad, the 26-year old would have been a grand fit.
Kenyan Drake - Arizona Cardinals
2019 Rushing - 14 games, 817 yards, 4.8 yards per attempt, 8 touchdowns
2019 Receiving - 14 games, 50 receptions, 345 yards, 0 touchdowns
To quote Jerry Seinfeld, “Gotta love the Drake”. This is quietly one of the most intriguing options in a loaded class. Had he played for teams other than Miami and Arizona, Drake could have had even more of a career year in 2019. Drake would be a nice feature back for any team looking.
Kareem Hunt - Cleveland Browns
2019 Rushing - 8 games, 179 yards, 4.2 yards per attempt, 2 touchdowns
2019 Receiving - 8 games, 37 receptions, 285 yards, 1 touchdown
Hunt is a character-risk and he missed half of 2019 because of his suspension. He definitely has football skills though. Playing behind Nick Chubb and being gone half of the season is the reason behind his stat line. However, a full season of Hunt would be promising for any team on the field. It could be worrisome off. But a lot of franchises will take that risk. Hunt is a Restricted Free Agent in 2020.
Melvin Gordon - Los Angeles Chargers
2019 Rushing - 12 games, 612 yards, 3.8 yards per attempt, 8 touchdowns
2019 Receiving - 12 games, 42 receptions, 296 yards, 1 touchdown
Gordon’s stats suffered because of his holdout and the play of Austin Ekeler during and after his absence, but he still had decent production and got into the end zone nine times. In a crowded class, he’s not the “belle of the ball” that he once was. However, he’ll get more-than-a-few good offers.
2019 Rushing - 10 games, 525 yards, 4.4 yards per attempt, 6 touchdowns
2019 Receiving - 10 games, 10 receptions, 69 yards, 1 touchdown
In four seasons, the 25-year old had nearly 4,000 yards rushing for the ChucagonBears and Philadelphia Eagles. A shoulder injury derailed his season for six weeks after a strong start. Miles Sanders took his spot during that time and didn’t look back. A formidable short-yardage back with 30 career touchdowns, Howard could fit well in a Pittsburgh if he came at a bargain price.
Other Notable Free Agent Running Backs:
Austin Ekeler - Los Angeles Chargers (RFA)
Matt Breida - San Francisco 49ers
Carlos Hyde - Houston Texans
Lamar Miller - Houston Texans
DeAndre Washington- Las Vegas Raiders
Johnathan Williams - Indianapolis Colts
LeSean McCoy - Kansas City Chiefs
Frank Gore - Buffalo Bills
Last year, the Steelers seemed to not be out on the market and pretty set at the FB position with Pro Bowler Roosevelt Nix signing a four-year extension. But Nix was injured almost the entire year and they could think about one, especially a brother of their team MVP. Here are the top FBs available.
Derek Watt - Los Angeles Chargers
Dan Vitale - Green Bay Packers
Anthony Sherman - Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Janovich - Denver Broncos
C.J. Ham - Minnesota Vikings