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Steelers 2021 Free Agent Market Watch: Running Backs the Steelers maybe can’t afford

BTSC takes a look at the top free agents at each position, whether or not they are in the Steelers price range. Here are the Running Backs.

Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Disclaimer: The author realizes that the 2021 Steelers are probably going to be 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.

The Steelers have many an issue on offense with losses on the line, at wide receiver and running back. Running Back is particularly interesting. The Steelers were always known as a running team, but have ranked near the bottom the past couple of years, With James Conner’s contract expired, it would be surprising if the inspiring Pitt RB is back. Behind him is a group including Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr. It seems like more players will be brought in to compete for the top job in the draft. They could also look at some valuable bargains in free agency. Should they find salary cap room to add, here is the list of available free agents should a Steel City Money Miracle occur.

ONCE AGAIN. THE AUTHOR REALIZES THAT THE STEELERS DO NOT HAVE THE FUNDS FOR MANY OF THESE PLAYERS. HOWEVER, THIS IS THE LIST OF WHO IS AVAILABLE TO THE ENTIRE LEAGUE AND THE STEELERS. YOU CAN CRITICIZE THE IDIOT AUTHOR ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER OR BLEACHER REPORT COMMENTS SECTION FOR WASTING YOUR TIME AND NOT KNOWING ANYTHING AT ALL, AGAIN AND AGAIN. HOWEVER, THESE WILL CONTINUE TO APPEAR.


Most Notable Free Agent Running Backs

Aaron Jones - Green Bay Packers

Age 26, 5’9”/208 lbs.

Stats: Games Played - 14, Speed: 4.56

Rushing:

Attempts - 204, Yards - 1,104, Yards Per Attempt - 5.5, Yards Per Game - 78.9, Touchdowns - 9, Fumbles - 2, 10+ Runs - 26

Receiving:

Targets - 63, Receptions - 47, Yards - 355, Yards Per Game 25.4, Touchdowns - 2, Drops - 3

No. 23 PFF Position Ranking

Overall Grade 79.4 (High Quality), Rushing 79.3 (High Quality), Receiving 76.5 (High Quality), Pass Blocking 39.1 (Poor), Run Blocking 44.4 (Poor)

Jones is one of the NFL’s finest running backs. He does everything well, but there is some worry that his production is due to the collaboration with Aaron Rodgers and playing in the Green Bay offense. Jones should get a great pay day regardless though. PFF is projecting Jones’ new contract to be in the cozy neighborhood of 4 years/$52 million.


Phillip Lindsay - Denver Broncos (RFA)

Age 26, 5’8”/190 lbs.

Stats: Games Played - 14, Speed - 4.39

Rushing:

Attempts - 118, Yards - 502, Yards Per Attempt - 4.3, Yards Per Game - 45.6, Touchdowns - 1, Fumbles - 0, 10+ Runs - 13

Receiving:

Targets - 14, Receptions - 7, Yards - 28, Touchdowns - 0, Yards Per Game - 2.5, Drops - 3

No. 37 PFF Position Ranking

Overall Grade 69.8 (Above Average), Rushing 77.7 (High Quality), Receiving 32.8 (Rookie), Pass Blocking 78.2 (High Quality), Run Blocking 62.9 (Average)

Not drafted by an NFL team, Phillip Lindsay had two-straight 1,000+ yard seasons in Denver to start his career. Last year, injuries cost Lindsay five games and a time share with Melvin Gordon ate into his production. Being only a restricted free agent probably keeps him in the Mile High city another season, but teams may take a flyer and still surrender a pick for such a talent.


Chris Carson - Seattle Seahawks

Age 26, 5’11”/222 lbs.

Stats: Games Played - 12, Speed: 4.6

Rushing:

Attempts - 141, Yards - 681, Yards Per Attempt - 4.8, Yards Per Game - 56.8, Touchdowns - 5, Fumbles - 1, 10+ Runs - 19

Receiving:

Targets - 46, Receptions - 37, Yards - 287, Yards Per Game 23.9, Touchdowns - 4, Drops - 3

No. 16 PFF Position Ranking

Overall Grade 78.1 (High Quality), Rushing 74.0 (Above Average), Receiving 82.3 (High Quality), Pass Blocking 34.0 (Rookie), Run Blocking 60.6 (Average)

Chris Carson only played 3/4ths of the 2020 season due to a foot injury and his play was solid, but not spectacular. Carson runs hard and catches the ball out of the backfield well. PFF projects $10 million per year for the Seattle rusher.


Mike Davis - Carolina Panthers

Age 28, 5’9”/221 lbs.

Stats: Games Played - 15, Speed - 4.6

Rushing:

Attempts - 165, Yards - 652, Yards Per Attempt - 3.9, Yards Per Game 42.8, Touchdowns - 6, Fumbles - 1, 10+ Runs - 14

Receiving:

Targets - 70, Receptions - 59, Yards - 373, Yards Per Game - 24.9, Touchdowns - 2, Drops - 3

No. 24 PFF Position Ranking

Overall Grade 75.0 (Above Average), Rushing 73.3 (Above Average), Receiving 73.1 (Above Average), Pass Blocking 51.7 (Below Average), Run Blocking 86.6 (Elite)

When Christian McCaffrey went down for a major chunk of the season in Carolina, Mike Davis filled in well. His pass catching is exceptional and his ability to make tacklers miss equated to a major part of his success. But Davis only averaged 3.9 YPC. He could catch on as a feature ball carrier in another NFL city, but teams (at a projected $4.5 million per year) may see Davis as a great option in a backup role.


Kenyan Drake - Arizona Cardinals

Age 27, 6’1”/211 lbs.

Stats: Games Played - 15, Speed: 4.45

Rushing:

Attempts - 239, Yards - 955, Yards Per Attempt - 4.0, Yards Per Game - 63.7, Touchdowns - 10, Fumbles - 3, 10+ Runs - 25

Receiving:

Targets - 31, Receptions -25, Yards - 137, Yards Per Game 9.1, Touchdowns - 0, Drops - 3

No. 60 PFF Position Ranking

Overall Grade 60.9 (Average), Rushing 65.3 (Above Average), Receiving 47.0 (Below Average), Pass Blocking 60.0 (Average), Run Blocking 51.2 (Below Average)

It was widely expected that Kenyan Drake was going to have a blockbuster season in the Valley of the Sun in 2020, but that didn’t quite happen. Drake is good at shedding tacklers, but his yards-per-carry only reached 4.0. With ten touchdowns, Kenyan has a nose for the end zone, but is not much of a factor in the passing game. Playing in the right scheme would benefit Drake greatly and it just doesn’t seem that Arizona was the best fit. Projected by PFF to go for $6 million-$7 million per year, this could be a quality signing for any team.


Most Notable Steelers Free Agent Running Backs

James Conner

Age 26, 6’1”/233 lbs.

Stats: Games Played - 13, Speed: 4.7

Rushing:

Attempts - 169, Yards - 721, Yards Per Attempt - 4.3, Yards Per Game - 55.5, Touchdowns - 6, Fumbles - 2, 10+ Runs - 19

Receiving:

Targets - 43, Receptions - 35, Yards - 215, Yards Per Game 16.5, Touchdowns - 0, Drops - 4

No. 39 PFF Position Ranking

Overall Grade 69.4 (Above Average), Rushing 73.4 (Above Average), Receiving 54.9 (Below Average), Pass Blocking 64.7 (Average), Run Blocking 64.4 (Average)

Conner is most likely not coming back after an injury-filled tenure in Steel City. If he does return, it would be surprising and on a minimum deal. But with PFF projecting $6.67 million per year as the going rate, No. 30 will likely continue his story of bravery and inspiration elsewhere,


Other Notable Free Agent Running Backs

Jeff Wilson Jr. (RFA) - San Francisco 49ers

Jerrick McKinnon - San Francisco 49ers

Tevin Coleman - San Francisco 49ers

Jamaal Williams - Green Bay Packers

Tyler Ervin - Green Bay Packers

Le’Veon Bell - Kansas City Chiefs

Leonard Fournette - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Boston Scott (RFA) - Philadelphia Eagles

Corey Clement - Philadelphia Eagles

Gus Edwards - (RFA) - Baltimore Ravens

Mark Ingram - Baltimore Ravens

Mike Boone (RFA) - Minnesota Vikings

Frank Gore - New York Jets

Wayne Gallman - New York Giants

Devonta Freeman - New York Giants

Alfred Morris - New York Giants

Dion Lewis - New York Giants

Adrian Peterson - Detroit Lions

Samaje Perine - Cincinnati Bengals

Todd Gurley - Atlanta Falcons

Brian Hill, RB - Atlanta Falcons

Carlos Hyde - Seattle Seahawks

Malcolm Brown - Los Angeles Rams

Rex Burkhead - New England Patriots

T.J. Yeldon - Buffalo Bills

Matt Breida - Miami Dolphins

DeAndre Washington - Miami Dolphins

Devontae Booker - Las Vegas Raiders

Theo Riddick - Las Vegas Raiders

Dwayne Washington - New Orleans Saints

Ty Montgomery - New Orleans Saints

Chris Thompson - Jacksonville Jaguars

Kalen Ballage - Los Angeles Chargers

LeSean McCoy - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Taiwan Jones - Buffalo Bills

Lamar Miller - The Washington Football Team

Senorise Perry - Tennessee Titans

D’Onta Foreman - Tennessee Titans