Our third look in the Pittsburgh Steelers' pre-draft series is running back.
Overview: The Steelers will be without Le’Veon Bell, who rushed for 1,361 yards and scored 11 touchdowns in 2014, for up to three games at the start of the season. The Steelers were proactive in regard to Bell’s suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy by signing DeAngelo Williams to a two-year, $4 million contract. The Carolina Panthers’ all-time leading rusher is the only outside free agent that the Steelers have signed. Second-year men Dri Archer and Josh Harris have scant experience with 19 career NFL carries between them.
Draft priority: Medium. Here are three things that point to the Steelers taking a running back: the position’s overall quality, the fact that the Steelers have drafted a running back eight consecutive years and the unknown when it comes to Archer and Harris. Also consider the Steelers’ need to get off to a good start given how demanding the back end of their schedule is. They have to fortify themselves as much as possible at running back while Bell is out.
Last player drafted at position: Archer, third round last year. The Steelers drafted the Kent State speedster as a return man and wide receiver as well but the majority of his work last season, limited as it was, came at running back.
Dream pick: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama. It’s hard to imagine the Steelers drafting a running back in the first three rounds. They have too many other needs and there is enough depth at running back to get one on the third day of the draft. Yeldon could be an option and the 6-1, 226-pounder has good size, a ton of big-game experience and is a third-year junior from a pedigreed program. Yeldon rushed for 3,322 yards and 37 touchdowns in three seasons at Alabama.
Practical pick: Mike Davis, South Carolina. The 5-9, 217-pounder could be a real sleeper if he drops in the draft because his production slipped in 2014 due to injuries. Davis rushed for more than 2,000 yards in two seasons as the Gamecocks’ feature back and is another third-year junior from a pedigreed program. If he lasts until the Steelers’ first selection in the sixth round -- and they haven’t already taken a running back -- they should run the Davis pick to the podium.
He said it: “Nothing has changed in terms of our mindset of what we need to do at the position. We needed to add quality depth at the position. We talked about the avenues in which we could do that, whether it was through free agency and/or the draft. We have DeAngelo Williams but we also have the draft this weekend. We may go 'and' as opposed to 'or.'” -- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on whether the absence of Bell at the start of the season impacts the team’s draft plans.