Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Steelers covet proven RB to add depth
By Scott Brown
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers raised eyebrows when they hosted Maurice Jones-Drew for an extended visit last week.
Jones-Drew, after all, seemed about as good a fit in Pittsburgh as palm trees.
But Mike Tomlin made it clear Tuesday morning that while the Steelers are committed to Le'Veon Bell they will also cover themselves at running back.
"We're looking to add depth at that position and a guy of that caliber, a 'been there, done that' type of veteran will be an asset for us," Tomlin said at the NFL owners meetings, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Having legitimate interest in Jones-Drew, who has over 8,000 career rushing yards, and landing the former Jaguars running back are two different things.
Jones-Drew is probably looking to sign with a team that will at least give him an opportunity to start as well as provide the eight-year veteran with a significant pay day.
The Steelers aren't in a position to do either.
Bell is entrenched as the starter after an impressive rookie season, and the Steelers are just $1.52 million under the salary cap, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
That doesn't mean the Steelers aren't well-positioned to sign a proven veteran to back up Bell.
The market is not a good one for running backs, even accomplished ones such as Jones-Drew and Knowshon Moreno, who had over 1,500 combined rushing and receiving yards and 13 touchdowns last season but remains unsigned.
Unlike other positions, running backs haven't cashed in while teams are throwing around money as if it were confetti.
A buyer's market bodes well for the Steelers adding a quality veteran to their backfield even if it isn't Jones Drew, whose base salary was $4.95 million last season.
The Steelers are scheduled to meet with LeGarrette Blount on Friday, and he is another running back looking for work despite emerging as the Patriots' best back in the second half of last season.
The Steelers are serious enough about Blount that they pushed his visit back -- he was initially slated to be in Pittsburgh on Monday -- so Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert could meet with the four-year veteran.
It is possible that the Steelers make enough of a push -- and free up the necessary cash -- that they sign Blount before he leaves Pittsburgh.
Or they will continue to be patient, knowing the market is such that a proven veteran will eventually fall into the range of what they can offer -- both in dollars and in playing time.