Skip to main content

Will Steelers employ RB committee approach in '19?

For years, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been mainly a one-back team, grinding that runner, play-in and play-out.

With Le'Veon Bell officially gone, might the Steelers consider joining the running back-by-committee approach?

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert, who was with Detroit when Barry Sanders played for the Lions many moons ago, suggested a committee approach with James Conner, Jaylen Samuels and fourth-round rookie Benny Snell could be in the Steelers' best interest.

"I wouldn't say it would be fading if you were fortunate enough to have one," Colbert told 105.9 The X this week when asked about workhorse backs disappearing, via The Athletic. "I was around one of those guys in Barry Sanders, and if you don't give them the ball, you're probably making a mistake. But those players are few and far between -- that's why they're Hall of Famers. Until someone proves they can play at that level consistently, you better have good options available.

"I hope that Benny Snell can give us some more variety. He has a similar running style as James. James isn't the biggest or fastest, but he gets what's there and usually finds more. I think that will help our group collectively, but if you had a unique one, you wouldn't be afraid to use him as much as you could, but those guys are few and far between."

Whether Colbert's message makes it to Tomlin is a completely different question.

Since taking over as coach in 2007, Tomlin teams have always been one-back operations, when they can. From 'Fast' Willie Parker to Rashard Mendenhall to Le'Veon Bell, Tomlin teams have preferred to ride an RB until he can't run anymore. The only years when carries were split came due to injury -- which is how you got the Jonathan Dwyer/Isaac Redman duo combining for 266 totes in 2012.

Even as Bell sat out last season, Tomlin rode Conner hard, giving the second-year player 215 carries in 13 games.

When Conner missed time, Samuels carried the load, despite getting little chance to get his feet wet in games prior.

In Tomlin's first season, he famously said he planned to ride Parker until "the wheels come off." That he did with Parker and then Mendenhall, each of whose careers fell off a cliff after massive workloads. Bell's final season in Pittsburgh saw him carry 321 times before sitting out last year.

This season, Colbert would like to see a more balanced approach in the backfield that could prolong careers and make the Steelers more potent in the long run.

Snell provides similar traits to Conner, sporting a downhill, blunt running style with vision and power to back up his tough running style.

Given how Conner's season ended -- with the RB dealing with nagging injuries -- an RBBC approach could behoove a Steelers offense that lost two dynamic weapons this offseason.

Whether Tomlin can help himself when one RB gets hot remains the biggest question.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content