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Thread: On the Steelers: Running backs always available

      
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    Default On the Steelers: Running backs always available

    On the Steelers: Running backs always available

    Sunday, February 20, 2011
    By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    Peter Diana/Post-Gazette
    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11051/1126435-66.stm


    Steelers running back Isaac Redman was an undrafted free agent.The loss of Frank Summers to the San Diego Chargers and the possible loss of free agent Mewelde Moore shines a light on the Steelers halfback position.

    They are down to just three -- workhorse Rashard Mendenhall and two young backs, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer (they also signed former Kansas State back James Johnson recently to a futures contract). But then, you can find a good back almost anywhere, and the Steelers have been proof of that for 30 years. Runners might not be easy to keep for a long time because of injuries and age and how it can sap the talent right out of a good back, such as what happened to Once Fast Willie Parker, but finding them is not difficult.

    We are not speaking about great running backs, those like Jim Brown and, yes, O.J. Simpson, but merely good ones. Tom Donahoe, former Steelers director of football operations, famously said once that wide receivers were a dime a dozen and he, too, was not talking about the great ones. He meant good, solid, every-day wide receivers. You can almost put running backs in that category as well.

    Take the Steelers. Can anyone remember when they did not have a good running back for a long period, two or three years? Since the 1970s, they have not gone long at all without a quality NFL running back and their performance through the years shows that. They have had some better than others, like Hall of Famer Franco Harris and Hall of Fame finalist Jerome Bettis, but they've never lined up with bad running backs.

    You could argue that in the late 1980s and early '90s they were a little confused about the position. They drafted Tim Worley on the first round in 1989 and Merril Hoge on the 11th in 1987 and their philosophy was so messed up on offense that often they misused both. And then Worley pursued the illegal substance path and that was that for him.

    Hoge was a good back on some bad teams. Another in that category was Frank Pollard in the early to mid-1980s. Pollard was a good back on many mediocre teams and practically salvaged the Steelers bread-and-butter running game after Harris left and Walter Abercrombie did not live up to expectations.

    Between Harris and Mendenhall, the Steelers best running backs came almost as an afterthought. Pollard (1980) and Hoge were drafted in the 11th round. Barry Foster was drafted in the fifth round in 1990. Earnest Jackson was picked up in a trade for virtually nothing. Same with Jerome Bettis. John L. Williams was signed for a song as a free agent. Willie Parker was undrafted as was fullback Dan Kreider.

    Between Harris and Mendenhall, the Steelers drafted three backs on the first round and none reached 1,000 yards rushing -- Greg Hawthorne (1979), Walter Abercrombie (1982) and Worley (1989). Hawthorne and Worley were relative busts.

    Mendenhall has proven worthy of a No. 1 pick, but he does not have the look of a great back, merely a good one. Redman is another undrafted back who has been more than productive when the Steelers allow him to run. Redman looks a little like Pollard, bull-running, straight-ahead backs who will get you more yards than you think they should.

    The Steelers have had other backs come and go, including one who earned a Super Bowl ring with them as a practice squad player in 2008 and another as a productive member of the Green Bay Packers the past season, John Kuhn. The Steelers released him, another undrafted running back.

    Since 1970, when the NFL merged with the AFL, the Steelers have more yards rushing than any other team -- 87,624. The Cowboys are second, 5,000 yards behind. The Steelers also have more yards rushing than any other team since 1992, when Bill Cowher took over and rediscovered their running game. And even with the presence for most of the past decade of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers still rank third in this century in rushing yards with 22,884, a mere 502 behind leader Denver.

    An offseason without OTAs?
    Some Steelers already are talking about how to stay in shape and keep their skills sharp during an extended lockout by owners. It would be one thing for a lockout to last a few months, quite another for it to last through August.

    Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger have discussed having some minicamps on their own for the quarterbacks and receivers in the spring.

    "Ben and I discussed it. He talked about getting together with the wide receivers," Ward said.

    They suggested meeting at different spots -- all gathering in Pittsburgh and then all gathering in the hometown of each receiver for various workouts. Ward said no plans were made, just discussed. But if the spring drills known as OTAs are affected, the players want to do something.

    "We have to," Ward said. "It's more for the younger guys. They won't have any workout programs. A lot of those guys have been going since the combine last year, training hard and then going 28 weeks of football."

    Whatever the players manage to do if there is an extended lockout will not match what happened during the last work stoppage of 1987. The players struck after the first two games of the regular season and there was great animosity as the NFL planned to continue games with "replacement" or "scab" players, depending on your point of view.

    It became quite heated and sometimes physical in some parts of the country, including cross-state in Philadelphia. It never got bad in Pittsburgh -- one reason because the Steelers smartly moved their replacement training camp to Johnstown. Also, quietly, Dan Rooney slipped Tunch Ilkin a key to the grass practice field outside Three Rivers Stadium. Ilkin, the team's starting right tackle and player rep, was told by Rooney to keep the players together and practice and not tell anyone about it.

    It would be nice to say it worked and they went on to a great season after their replacement players went 2-1 during the strike games. The Steelers did win their first game back, against Cincinnati. They went on to lose five of their next nine to finish 8-7 and miss the playoffs.

    Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com.


    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11051...#ixzz1EWHFIkBv

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Running backs always available

    The Steelers will get more bang for their Buck going with Mendenhall, Redman and Dwyer. Dwyer has good size and runs with power and speed, plus he has good hands to catch the ball out of the backfield. He can do everything Moore could at a fraction of the cost and the savings could be applied to our own free agents being retained.
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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Running backs always available

    Thinking about RBs, I thought I'd drop this in your collective cappucinos and see if it comes up frothy. How do you all feel about Mewelde Moore? Just when I think he toils in anonimity, he pops off a decent run.

    Just when I think we could get by and free up a little cap space, he makes a case to the contrary.
    'I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ***-kickers, ****-kickers and Methodists.'

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    Quote Originally Posted by War Machine View Post
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member. Show Quote
    Thinking about RBs, I thought I'd drop this in your collective cappucinos and see if it comes up frothy. How do you all feel about Mewelde Moore? Just when I think he toils in anonimity, he pops off a decent run.

    Just when I think we could get by and free up a little cap space, he makes a case to the contrary.
    I am kinda with you but he still isn't worth much of a contract. In RB years he is about done. I'd be bringing him into camp hoping Dwyer looks a lot better so MM can get cut.

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Running backs always available

    You're right War, Moore has a way of hanging around when he is counted out, but I think it is time to cut ties with him for economical reasons. The same reason I could see Tyler Grisham getting El's spot. There are some core players becoming free agents and if their are younger players at other positions who can do what the higher paid vets in front of them can, you gotta go with them, especially if it allows you to keep your own free agents.
    Personally, I think it's time to part with El, Moore, Smith (injury risk more than anything else), Colon and a few others. The defense has to get younger, especially along the line while at the same time retaing the strength of our defense, which is the linebackers. Money has to be freed up to keep guys like Woodley and Taylor this year and Troy and Timmons next year.
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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Running backs always available

    Beezy and Steelreign: This is what I wanted to guage. He seems to be more occasional now (Mendenhall having stepped up) and there are guys like Redman who seem to have started to come through and are at an equivalent point on the curve. The difference is that, I think, Moore might be heading down and they're ascendant.

    It will be interesting to see what happens when the new CBA starts, especially given that we don't know what it might change. Caps and agency statuses might alter and that'll probably test the front office number jugglers in every organisation.
    'I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ***-kickers, ****-kickers and Methodists.'

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    Default Re: On the Steelers: Running backs always available

    It sure does suck being in a holding pattern for the fans, so I can only imagine what it's like for front office personnel. They probably have to come up with different contract proposals for multiple scenarios of possible CBA resolutions. What a freaking nightmare for those people.
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