As rushing attacks seemed to ween in the later part of the 2000's and passing offenses and timeshare backfield emerged as the preeminent form of offensive game plans, RB Steven Jackson seemed to be one of the only true workhorses left in the league. Interestingly, Jackson has seemingly been an under-the-radar player for the duration of his career, posting perhaps the most quiet 15,000 scrimmage yards and 77 touchdowns in league history.
A model of consistency with eight consecutive 1000-yard seasons for the lowly St. Louis Rams, Jackson signed a three-year deal with Atlanta in 2013, and despite his age and injuries, played well with the Falcons, contributing over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns in his past two seasons. On Thursday, the team announced they had released the 31-year old former first round pick, according to Jay Adams Falcons.com.
The move makes sense, as the Falcons are seeking to get younger and build a future, a proposition made a little easier with the $3.75 million they saved by releasing Jackson. Although the Falcons could realistically make the playoffs next season -- they nearly did in 2014, finishing a game out of the division lead despite a 6-10 record -- they are a team with multiple deficiencies on both sides of the ball, and Jackson's 3.7 yards per carry mark with the team wasn't cutting it anymore.
The Steelers, however, will compete for a playoff spot next season; potentially a Super Bowl. The Steelers also have two things the Falcons don't: a top-notch offensive line and a need for a veteran running back. In fact, the potential loss of Le'Veon Bell for a pair of games is more than enough to warrant consideration for Jackson (or any other veteran back on the market). Jackson will likely come cheaper than other notable veterans like Reggie Bush or DeAngelo Williams because of his age and wear on his body. Jackson is currently the leader in career carries amongst active players: his 2,743 carries are 300 more than the second place player on that list, Frank Gore. For comparisons sake, Bush and Williams, both around Jackson's age, have half as many career carries. With this consideration in mind, Jackson's market price would likely be considerably lower than either Bush or Williams.
Even then, Jackson could present a remarkable bargain. Jackson has visited the playoffs once in the entirety of his career and has played second fiddle to younger players in each of the last two seasons. In addition to him being a noted team-first guy, the prospect of him, say, leaving the field in the middle of the game remains an unlikely occurrence. Jackson has also been a reliable pass catcher (snagging a career-high 90 balls in 2006) and most importantly, he hasn't fumbled the football since 2010, carrying the ball over 700 times since the last time he put it on the ground.
Of all the free agent running backs available, Jackson might make the most sense for the Steelers to test out. He brings a great attitude, a consistent model of professionalism and he will provide veteran leadership at an affordable price.