Five Backup Free Agent RB Options For Steelers

May 4, 2022
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Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris has become one of the NFL’s premier backs. In his rookie season last year, he led the entire NFL in touches with 381. Harris became a bell-cow running back like the Steelers thought he would when they selected him 24th overall a year ago. We all want to see Najee on the field as much as possible, but it would also be very beneficial for the Steelers to bring in someone to take some touches to avoid injury to Najee and keep his legs fresh down the stretch. 

Most options appear to be free agents. It doesn’t appear that Pittsburgh will spend a draft pick on a running back as the team has bigger holes to fill on April 28. Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland are still on the roster but have yet to impact the team.

Phillip Lindsay

The former Bronco has been a journeyman in his four NFL seasons, spending time in Denver, Houston, and Miami. Lindsay made the Pro Bowl in 2018 as a member of the Broncos when he notched 1,037 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He played in Denver until last year, when he split the season between the Texans and Dolphins, struggling with injury and not finding his footing in those places. 

In his career, Lindsay has posted 2.799 rushing yards for 18 touchdowns in 56 games. He could come at a good price. While it’s not a necessary addition for the Steelers, Lindsay could bring something to the running backs room.

Jerick McKinnon

Another guy who has spent time in multiple places in his six years in the league, Jerick McKinnon, is looking for a new home. McKinnon spent last season with the Chiefs, where he appeared in 13 games, including the playoffs, where he potentially grabbed the attention of his future team. Against the Steelers in the first round, McKinnon had 12 rushes for 61 yards and caught all six targets that came his way for 81 yards and a touchdown. 

McKinnon is 29 years old and was drafted by Minnesota in 2014 and stayed there until spending a season in San Francisco and Kansas City each. Appearing in 87 games in his NFL career, he has amassed 2.299 rushing yards for 12 touchdowns and 188 catches for 1,344 yards and seven receiving touchdowns. An intriguing number is McKinnon averages 4.8 yards per touch in his NFL career.

Sony Michel

The 27-year-old Sony Michel has put together quite the resume in his four years. Michel is a two-time Super Bowl Champion, once with New England and last year with the Rams. He has the championship pedigree that would be great to add to this young offense. He’s only 27 years old with a Calculated Market Value of $5 million a year, according to spotrac.com. 

Last year with the Rams, Michel showed he could make an impact even in a crowded running backs room. He posted 845 rushing yards for four touchdowns and 21 catches for 128 yards, and a receiving touchdown in 17 games. Michel has amassed 3.137 yards throughout his career with 18 touchdowns and 47 catches for 386 yards and two touchdowns to go with those two rings. Michel is most likely the next best option on this list to Melvin Gordon, coming in around the same projected cap hit.

Tarik Cohen

After battling injury and Matt Nagy the past few years, Trubisky’s old buddy is on the market. The former Bears running back is only 26 years old and can return kicks and punts. Pittsburgh already added Gunner Olszewski to handle the kicks and punts, but it couldn’t hurt to let Cohen take a crack at it. 

Cohen’s best season coincidentally happened the same year as Trubisky. The teammates both made the Pro Bowl in 2018. Cohen posted 444 rushing yards for three touchdowns in that season and 725 receiving yards for five touchdowns. That year he also had 411 punt return yards, proving himself as a special teams player. Cohen was a 1st Team All-Pro player in 2018 as well.

Le’Veon Bell

The return? While it doesn’t seem likely, Le’Veon Bell could come in and be a serious help to Najee Harris. Bell is a nine-year NFL veteran at 30 years old and could probably teach Najee a thing or two while also relieving him of some snaps. We’re all familiar with Bell here in the Steel City as he spent five seasons hereafter the Steelers selected him 48th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Bell was one of the best backs in Steelers’ history despite injuries. Steelers fans all remember how electric Bell was in his time here before contact talks soured, and Bell took a year off and departed for New York. In Pittsburgh, Bell posted 5,336 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns to go with 312 receptions for 2,660 yards and seven touchdowns. He made three Pro Bowls for the Steelers in 2014, 2016, and 2017. Since leaving, his career has been rather rocky. Bell spent time with the Jets, Chiefs, Ravens, and Buccaneers since leaving Pittsburgh and is now searching for a home in the NFL.