Which Vet RB Should Steelers Want?

By Ed Bouchette
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 8 years ago

Good morning,

As the Steelers search for a backup halfback to Le’Veon Bell – or two – a number of formerly good veteran backs have become free agents after their teams released them recently or even into last season.

Here is a handful that are available for the signing: Steven Jackson, Reggie Bush, DeAngelo Williams, Ray Rice and Peyton Hillis.

Not a bad group of names, but do any of them have anything left to not only back up Bell but perhaps start two games if he is suspended?

The Steelers are likely to try to sign a veteran running back the way they did last season and then draft one. They may not be in a rush to sign the vet. Remember, they did not sign LeGarrette Blount until March 28. Sometimes with veterans, they let them see what market there is for them – if there is any – before trying to sign them. Early in the process, a veteran sometimes thinks he is worth more than the market thinks he is worth.

Forget Rice, for the obvious reasons.

Jackson, who will be 32 in July, is a big back who ran for 70-7 yards for the Falcons last season, including 46 on 11 carries against the Steelers Dec. 14. He averaged 3.7 yards a carry and he’s had a lot of carries over his 11-year career – 2,743.

Bush ran for 1,006 yards and a 4.5-yard average for Detroit in 2013 but played in just 11 games last season and gained only 297 yards on 76 carries. However, he also caught 40 passes last season and 54 the season before. He turns 30 next week.

Williams was hurt last season and he turns 32 in April. He had a nice year in 2013 for Carolina, where he spent his entire nine seasons, and ran for 843 yards and caught 26 passes in 15 games. Last season, injuries limited him to six games, he rushed 62 times for 219 yards and caught five passes.

Hillis had his best season in Cleveland in 2010 when he ran for 1,177 yards and a 4.4-yard average and added 61 pass receptions. However, he managed only 115 yards as a backup with the Giants last season and 247 the previous season. Since that 1,000-yard season, he has run for 587, 309, 247 and 115. He is the youngest of these veteran backs, having turned 29 last month.

One more thing about Rice – even without the baggage, he showed a sharp decline in Baltimore in 2012 when he dipped from 1,143 yards and a 4.4-yard average in 2012 to 660 yards and a 3.1-yard average in 2013. He does have good receiving ability with Bell-like numbers in that area. But, the Steelers are not going to sign him.

So, which one should the Steelers sign, assuming they want any of them?

Me, I’d take Bush first, but he may have other options, perhaps even back home with the Houston Texans. After that, I’d take a pass and find a veteran back somewhere else.