As the 90-man rosters are now set, you now have the information to start looking into training camp battles, and see what positions the Steelers may be looking at this year. We will look through the Steelers roster and see who not only will make the team, but where they stand in terms of playing time for not only the 2016 season, but for the future. There are always reasons to hold on to these lower end players who may be able to make an impact as players come and go via free agency. This edition we will look at the running back position. It will include running backs as well as any potential fullbacks to make the team.
Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back Depth Chart Projections
1. Le’Veon Bell
Bell will be the starter this season, but his 2016 season will come with a plethora of questions. To start, Bell will be a free agent this year. Due to the fact that when healthy, he is arguably the best running back in the NFL, the easy answer is that Bell will have a strong 2016, and the Steelers will extend him. However, in the three years that Bell has been in the NFL, three different lower body injuries have caused him to miss time. It was foot surgery that delayed his NFL debut, it was a sprained MCL that ended his 2014 season, and it was a torn ACL that ended his 2015. He has shown that he is working out and looks to be healthy for training camp, but the ligaments in your knee are one of the most important aspects of an NFL running back. Bell will have to maintain health, and show that he has not lost a step, all while worrying about where he will be playing in the next year, and how much team’s will think he is worth.
2. DeAngelo Williams
Fortunately for the Steelers, if Bell is to show rust, or go down again they do have a talent behind him at running back. It helps that the Steelers have a great offensive line, but last year Williams was able to run for his most yards since 2009, and his best yards per carry rate since 2011. It was also only the fourth time that he had 200 carries in his nine year career. While he was trusted, and deservedly so, he is now 32 years old and is a free agent next year. It is not like the Steelers are going to tell Bell, at age 24 that they are more comfortable signing Williams instead of him, no matter how much cheaper. Williams seems to like his fit and his role in Pittsburgh, so if he can stay healthy you would expect he can be retained on the cheap as a back up option for another year.
3. Roosevelt Nix
Nix is third on the chart because in terms of making the team he has the third best chance. He will most likely not see carries, and his main role will come on special teams, but Nix does have a role on this team, and will be written in as the starting full back. Nix can block, and lineup at tight end, and even played linebacker in college. The swiss army knife should make the roster.
4. Fitzgerald Toussaint
With Bell and his injury issues, and Williams being a bit older the Steelers will have to carry another running back that has the potential to carry the ball. Toussaint does not have much experience, but he was the Steelers starting running back in their two game postseason run last year. Toussaint had the big fourth quarter fumble against the Broncos that led to the end of their season, but he also had a major fourth down catch in the Steelers game winning field goal drive in the round before against the Bengals. Toussaint mainly should make the team because the competition is not strong, and he already has a leg up on them.
Darryl Richardson, Brandon Dukes-Brown and Cameron Stingly are signed to the 90-man and will be competing for the last roster spot. Stingly is a big running back, and it is rumored he is brought in to compete with Nix for the full back job. Richardson was a 7th round pick for the Rams and has been a journey man since being drafted in 2012, and Dukes-Brown is an undrafted free agent signed from a local college Mercyhurst. They will compete, and it is not like Toussaint has a firm hold of the job, but assuming no injury, Toussaint is the most talented, and now has the most experience with the team. The Steelers carried five running backs/ full backs last year, but one was Dri Archer who was a return specialist. Given that none of these players will be returning punts, they should only carry four this year.