4 reasons Steelers should address RB in the NFL Draft instead of free agency

Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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The Steelers are going to be looking to upgrade the running back position in 2021. Here’s why they should do so in the NFL Draft instead of free agency.

With the way that Pittsburgh finished the season on offense in 2020, it wasn’t surprising to hear both Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin express their need to improve the running game next season. The Steelers finished dead last in the league in both total rushing yards and yards per attempt last season. This resulted in an offense that scored under 20 points per game for the final six contests of the regular season.

While there are clearly a handful of factors that come into play here – including the lackluster performance by the offensive line – the Steelers know that in order to make improvements running the ball, they need to invest in a better running back. James Conner is very likely to sign with another team in free agency this offseason, and Pittsburgh will look to bring another player to fill his shoes.

The question is how? While some have flirted with the idea of signing a quality free agent running back to improve Pittsburgh’s backfield, I would urge strongly against that. Here’s why the Steelers should improve the running back position through the NFL Draft instead of free agency:

Price difference

For starters, a difference in cost could make a big difference to what the Steelers are able to do this offseason. While signing a free agent running back sounds good in theory, landing a player that would be a clear improvement over James Conner could cause the Steelers to spend somewhere between $5-8 million per year on a running back. Aaron Jones, the best running back who could hit the market, is projected to make roughly $14.6 million per year, according to Spotrac.com.

On the other hand, grabbing a running back in the NFL Draft will cost you a fraction of this. If Pittsburgh was to go this route in the 2nd or 3rd round, as many have predicted, that player would likely only cost them somewhere in the ballpark of $1.1-$1.5 million per season over the course of their entire rookie deal. This is a drastic difference from a player they would get in free agency.