The Pittsburgh Steelers made headlines last week when they released running back Chris Rainey after his arrest in Florida. Sure, the running game was a disappointment, but in the process, they also released the only running back that they had under contract at this point for the 2013 season.Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer are restricted free agents and running back Baron Batch is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning that all three will likely receive tenders this offseason.
With the salary cap situation, the tenders will likely mean the lowest possible to receive compensation, which could cause some problems, but it could also keep some of the stable intact. This could be an extremely dicey situation with Redman as he was an undrafted rookie free agent, and some team may decide to offer him a contract that the Steelers cannot match.
The wild card in this scenario is running back Rashard Mendenhall. Yes, he has been a polarizing player his entire career in the Steel City, but he is the teams most complete back. Even in 2012, where he faced tremendous turmoil, he produced in spurts demonstrating the athleticism that led to him being a first round selection.
Of course, this is a two way street and Mendenhall may want to leave and/or price himself out of Pittsburgh. If that is the case, the team should look to lock up either Dwyer or Redman on a multiyear contract prior to the start of free agency. Dwyer would be the most logical choice as he proved, albeit in a small sample, that he has the ability to be a more versatile back than Redman. On top of that, he is more athletic and younger.
Even if they do bring all three running backs to training camp, look for the team to address the position in the later portions of the NFL Draft. Quality backs can be found in the mid-to-late rounds and the Steelers can ill afford to use an early round pick on a back.
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