Over the past few days a conversation sparked online about whether Najee Harris could become Mike Tomlin’s greatest ever running back. This got me thinking about all the names Coach Tomlin has had the position dating back to 2007. The position has always seen a ton of turnover so there are a lot of names to pick from. But below are the the top ten running backs of Tomlin's Steelers career and the list of guys Najee Harris is chasing.
10. Jaylen Samuels
Rush yards 459, TD 1, YPC 3.5
Jaylen Samuels has had a handful of impressive games as a Pittsburgh Steeler, none more impressive than his 2018 clash versus New England. Samuels never really got his footing under him however, and has been more of a backup/change of pace guy the last three years. Samuels time may be coming to an end in Pittsburgh but he has done enough to crack this list.
9. Benny Snell
Rush yards 794, TDs 6, YPC 3.6
Benny Snell was once seen as someone who could supplant James Conner as the Steelers top runner. After a promising rookie season Snell slowed down, and may also find himself on the chopping block in 2021. A handful of impact performances land Snell on this list.
8. Jonathan Dwyer
Rush Yards 971, TDs 2, YPC 4.2
One half of the no name backfield, Dwyer managed to stick around with the Steelers for four years and push for backup runner snaps. Dwyer’s top year came in 2013 where he started six games, in his final season as a Steeler Dwyer appeared in 15 games.
7. Isaac Redman
Rush Yards 1,148, TDs 5, YPC 4.1
Isaac ‘Redzone’ Redman was an undrafted rookie sensation for the Steelers back in 2009. His performance throughout training camp was so impressive that this very website coined the Redman award for the top ‘unknown’ player of training camp. The following four seasons appeared in almost every game, and carried a decent percentage of the snaps. The sensation was released after a certain Pro Bowl running back was added to the roster.
6. Mewelde Moore
Rush Yards 962, TDs 5, YPC 4.2, Rec yards 782, Rec TDs 4
Mewelde Moore was an instrumental piece on the Steelers Super Bowl XLIII, injuries to Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall saw Moore start four games as well as appearing in every game that championship year. Known as a receiving back, Moore snagged 98 passes in four years with the Steelers.
5. DeAngelo Williams
Rush Yards 1,250, TDs 15, YPC 4.2
One of the best free agent signings of the Mike Tomlin era, DeAngelo Williams was never thought to be more than a top backup running back. After suspensions and injuries to Le’Veon Bell, Williams was thrust into starting action and looked as good as he ever had. In two years with the Steelers he racked up more yards than half the guys on this list. Had Williams been the full-time starter he would've easily cleared 1,000 yards in 2015.
4. Willie Parker
Rush Yards 2496, TDs 7, 4.0
Willie Parker would be higher on this list had his most prolific years been with Bill Cowher, HIS RANKING REFLECTS THIS. After a 1,300 yard year in 2007, Parker’s playing time regressed, mostly due to injury but also because the coaching staff was trying to replace him with a first round pick, and free agents. Parker was able to hoist his second Lombardi under Mike Tomlin.
3. James Conner
Rush Yards 2,302, TDs 22, YPC 4.3
James Conner was a Pro Bowl runner for the Pittsburgh Steelers and if it weren't for injuries, Conner would have been one of the top running backs in the league. But the best ability is availability, as they say, and Conner struggled with staying on the field. Conner never put up a 1,000 yard year, but he was the guy for three straight years, and was known for his bruising style.
2. Rashard Mendenhall
Rush Yards 3,549, TDs 35, YPC 4.1
Mendenhall will always be known for his fumble in the Super Bowl, unfortunately that’s a label that sticks with a guy forever when you lose the game. But 2010 was the best year of his career putting up nearly 1,300 yards, and 13 touchdowns. Mendenhall was always a good back but never pushed into great status. He was a really good player for his time and Steelers fans still need to keep in mind the good times Mendenhall provided.
1. Le’Veon Bell
Rush Yards 5,336, TDs 35, YPC 4.3, Rec yards 2660, Rec TDs 7
Who else, the best running back of the Mike Tomlin era has to be Le’Veon Bell. Arguably the best running back in the game when he was at his best Bell was also a dynamic receiver. Had Bell never left the Steelers he could've pressed Jerome Bettis, and Franco Harris as one of the best running backs in franchise history. Oh, what could've been.
But what do you think? How high can Najee Harris climb after just his rookie season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.