The Pittsburgh Steelers have a limited number of draft choices this year. Here’s why they should take a running back early in the NFL Draft or not take one at all.
The Steelers are in a predicament this offseason: They have too many needs to fill and not enough draft picks or cap space to fill them all. Though receiving a third-round compensatory pick helps, Pittsburgh is without their first-round pick, and they have just over $1.5 million in cap space, according to Over the Cap.
Mike Tomlin’s team is now dead last in the league in cap space, and it still remains to be seen which route they will use to free up cap space to tag Bud Dupree. There are no doubt players will lose their jobs this offseason. Mark Barron and Anthony Chickillo are two players who may have the most to lose. However, with making cuts, Pittsburgh will be forced to bring in more players to help stop the bleeding.
The Steelers could use several positions – mainly on the offensive side of the ball. It’s been rumored that Pittsburgh could be in the market for adding a running back via the draft. But is that really the best idea?
There are a few guys that they are sure to have an interest in. Players like Cam Akers, Zack Moss, and AJ Dillon all fit the bill as big, workhorse backs who could eventually take over for James Conner. Jonathan Taylor is perhaps the most intriguing running back prospect of all. At 226 pounds, Taylor ran a blazing 4.39-second 40-yard dash. He also has very solid tape and is the best pure runner in the class. However, Pittsburgh didn’t send anyone out to Wisconsin’s Pro Day to get a closer look.
The Steelers currently have their top three running backs playing on rookie deals: James Conner, Benny Snell, and Jaylen Samuels. Spending a draft pick on a running back in a year where Pittsburgh is shorthanded in both draft selections and cap space may not make a ton of sense.
If the Steelers were to land a player like Cam Akers or Zack Moss with their third-round pick, for example, all it would do is push a cheap player like Jalen Samuels off the roster or force Pittsburgh to hang onto four running backs in 2019 (not counting full-back, Roosevelt Nix) – something they hardly ever do.
I think Jonathan Taylor could be the real deal, and if he is still hanging around at pick 49, it’s something the Steelers desperately need to consider. Taylor could be an immediate impact player for Pittsburgh in a rapidly closing Super Bowl window. D’Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins, and Cylde Edwards-Helaire are the other top running backs in this class, but none of them fit the size thresholds the Steelers typically look for when drafting the position.
With so many areas of need in 2020, Pittsburgh may be best off foregoing the position one more year – especially with already having three cheap, young running backs under contract. They may want to consider taking a guy like Jonathan Taylor early, or not drafting a running back at all.