Some player/franchise free agency signings seem to make too much sense.
Free agent running back Tarik Cohen possibly signing with the Steelers could be the start of a beautiful friendship. Both parties have a need, now they just need to determine the will and the way.
If you haven't already read Cohen's heartbreaking, and heart touching, essay he wrote to his younger self that published just recently, I highly recommend it.
It's a revealing and brilliant reminder that we never truly know what any individual is dealing with in their personal life at any moment, so we should treat everybody like we would like to be treated. It's really not that hard actually. Respect one another.
I wouldn't dare try to add or take away a single word from Cohen's own honest and heartfelt retelling of the last decade of his life, as I would never do it justice. Just know that he has displayed courage, determination, and faithfulness.
I am writing this article because I was already mulling over the possibly of the Steelers bringing him in for a look-see, even before reading his article. After reading it, it only reaffirmed my initial opinion.
The Steelers are always in the market looking for good value, and Cohen could be just that, if he has finally fully recovered from his devastating knee injury. If so, Cohen and the Steelers could have a mutually beneficial relationship.
As I mentioned earlier, the general consensus among the masses is that the Steelers need a serious upgrade at backup running back, even if Mike Tomlin and company have proven to be extremely reluctant to utilize the position in the past. Najee Harris is a certified stud, but it wouldn't seem prudent to run the wheels off their young star running back. Another 381 total touches last season, Harris’ usage from his rookie season, would be ill-advised.
The Steelers current running back depth chart leaves much to be desired, but that is an article for another day. It's nearly impossible to fairly evaluate the abilities of any of the Steelers’ reserves, as they have been operating behind a sub-par offensive line for the past handful of seasons, coupled with the aforementioned scarcity of opportunities.
Here's the "million dollar question". Would Mike Tomlin and company actually utilize a change of pace backup running back if they had one?
Benny Snell is a north and south plodder, definitely not a change of pace guy. Anthony McFarland has the necessary speed, but hasn't proven effective, nor durable enough to contribute on the field. Rookie Connor Heyward has impressive versatility, and may be able to earn some snaps as a short yardage specialist at the RB3 position, but I can't see him being entrusted as Harris’ main backup. The Steelers have signed a couple of undrafted free agents, but those guys are often undrafted for a reason.
Tarik Cohen is reportedly completely recovered from his 2020 knee surgery. After suffering a couple of setbacks in his lengthy rehabilitation, Cohen hasn't been able to get back on the field since. The Chicago Bears released Cohen in March of 2022.
When healthy, Cohen was the definition of a change of pace running back. He was equipped with ‘water bug’ quickness and acceleration, and was a mismatch waiting to happen. He was a threat to go the distance anytime he touched the ball, whether it was on offense or via kick return. Nobody knows how much of that explosiveness has been diminished by the knee injury, but what would it hurt to bring him in for a closer look? It doesn't cost much to kick the tires on a potentially good deal.
I believe Cohen would appreciate and fully embrace the Steelers family-like atmosphere and culture, implemented by the Rooneys. The personal relationship cultivated by Mike Tomlin himself, whom numerous players have credited with having a father like presence in their lives, would possibly mean even more to a talented 26 year-old young man like Cohen.
The fact a player with Cohen's resume has received little-to-no interest in free agency confirms that teams are still wary of his remaining abilities and availability after such a long and arduous rehab journey. Cohen has shown an impressive resolve to continue fighting through all of his setbacks, whether they have been of the professional or family variety.
The Steelers currently have an intriguing young roster, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The type of young roster that hopefully will have every opportunity to grow and mature together. There has been a lot of talk recently among Steelers faithful about the team’s need to bring in a veteran presence, or two, to provide leadership and NFL experience.
Tarik Cohen is a young man wise beyond his years. He has experienced the highest of highs as a professional football player, earning All-Pro status in 2018. He has experienced more pain and anguish in his private life than most will experience in a lifetime. Yet he appears dedicated and determined to continue living out his NFL dreams.
The Steelers could invite Cohen in for a workout to evaluate where he is in his recovery. If both parties are interested, the Steelers could offer him a incentive-laden one-year contract. He would then have every opportunity to prove his worth in training camp and during the preseason, and the Steelers could determine if he is a good fit for Matt Canada's offense.
Whatever the future holds for Tarik Cohen, both in his professional and personal life, I wish him and his family well. Respect.