Offseason Ripples: Will Release of Steelers Rainey Affect Outcome of Draft?


Stanford Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor could be an option for the Steelers in the latter rounds of the draft now that Chris Rainey is gone. Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers running game was a complete mess in 2012.  Between injuries, players not quite meeting expectations, and a continually beat up offensive line the Steelers ranked 26th in rushing.  The Steelers never tip their hand about their offseason plans – free agency signings, player releases, the draft.  But, it seems as though the team might be content with the roster they currently have and have no plans to bolster (at least make a bold early draft pick or sink money into a free agent) the depth chart.

That was early in the week.  But what about after Thursday?  Rookie Chris Rainey was released by the team on Thursday following his arrest for assaulting his girlfriend that very same day.  On Friday, while Rainey was in court for his booking, Rainey’s girlfriend said she did not want to press charges because there was no offense.  There was no assault.  It only looked that way.  Despite the fishy recollection and poor attempt to defend Rainey, the judge was not so quick to let Rainey go completely free.  Even if Rainey is not officially arraigned, there are doubts (mainly mine) that the Steelers will bring him back.  If anything, it would be such a disastrous PR move.

With Rainey pretty much out of the picture, the Steelers will still be reliant upon Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman.  More than likely, Rashard Mendenhall will be released by the team.  But perhaps not now that Rainey is gone.  Is Mendenhall and his personality/work ethic/production worth the collateral damage of a sub-par season?  Is he of better use to the Steelers than Rainey was?  Rainey was far from being a featured back and superstar on the Steelers roster, but his development seemed a priority with the team.  His ‘can do anything’ skill set did make him an asset to special teams and 3rd down scenarios.  Obviously his dismissal changes that up a bit, but does this send a ripple through the draft for the Steelers?

Immediate needs for the Steelers are defense, more defense, a QB, and some more offense.  I didn’t really expect the Steelers to take a running back until very late in the draft if at all this season.  But, because the Steelers are now down to two, that might completely change the face of the draft board for the Black & Gold.  Dom released Mock Draft 1.0 on Saturday and, through the comments section, felt that the Steelers would avoid Alabama’s Eddie Lacey and go late with someone like Joseph Randle, Stepfan Taylor, or Johnathan Franklin.  That could be an even more realistic plan than first thought.

Will Rainey’s release have an impact on how the Steelers draft this year?