Friday, March 23, 2012
Steelers, Browns sitting still at running back
By Jamison Hensley
The free-agent market for running backs has heated up, but the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns have been content to chill.
Both teams need to replace their leading rushers. The Steelers can't depend on Rashard Mendenhall (ACL surgery in January) this year, and the Browns didn't attempt to re-sign Peyton Hillis. If the season kicked off today, the Steelers would start Isaac Redman, and the Browns would go with either Montario Hardesty or Brandon Jackson.
Still, there's been no sense of urgency by either team, as a running back signed nearly every day this week. Mike Tolbert joined the Panthers on Monday. BenJarvus Green-Ellis went to the Bengals on Wednesday. And Michael Bush landed with the Bears on Thursday.
I could see where the Steelers might be content with Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay and Baron Batch, although it's still risky considering they have a combined 197 carries in the NFL. General manager Kevin Colbert insisted the Steelers weren't in the market for a running back more than any other position at the NFL combine last month, but that doesn't mean he has ruled it out completely.
The Browns' running back group of Hardesty, Jackson and Ogbonnaya totaled 600 rushing yards and one touchdown, and it's assumed they would add someone in free agency or the draft.
The remaining free-agent running backs aren't game-changers, but they can be productive. The top ones available are: Brandon Jacobs, Cedric Benson, Joseph Addai, Ryan Grant and Kevin Smith. There are possibilities for trades, but the Panthers aren't shopping Jonathan Stewart yet, and the Bears don't appear ready to move Matt Forte.
When it comes to the draft, the Browns have a big decision at running back. They could take Alabama running back Trent Richardson with the fourth overall pick or wait to find one in the second, third or fourth rounds.
Looking at what the Steelers and Browns have now, they would strengthen their teams if they added a running back. But their approach so far tells me these teams are either waiting for a good value in free agency, or they will look for another running back in the draft.