Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers rushing attack was the league’s worst. While much of the blame has been placed on the offensive line, James Conner’s contract has expired, and the offense could potentially benefit from changing some things up. If Conner doesn’t re-sign in Pittsburgh and goes elsewhere, here are possible Steelers RB solutions for the 2021 season.
Possible Steelers Offseason Moves at RB
Steelers Free Agency Target: Aaron Jones
Aaron Jones’ contract with the Green Bay Packers is up, and he will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Jones, 26, is arguably the best running back available in NFL Free Agency, making him a target for many teams. His ability as a runner, as well as a pass-catcher, would fit the mold beautifully in Pittsburgh. Their offense loves the short-passing game, and Jones was the second-most targeted receiver in Green Bay over the past two seasons.
In fact, Rob Demovsky, a Packers reporter for ESPN, predicted that the Steelers would be the ones to land Jones. They just restructured Cam Heyward’s deal and have talked for weeks about doing the same with Ben Roethlisberger. Assuming they have the money, the Steelers ailing run game could benefit greatly from Aaron Jones.
Steelers Draft Target: Trey Sermon
If the Steelers choose instead to look to the NFL Draft for Conner’s replacement, they should look no further than Ohio State running back Trey Sermon. Many people have considered the possibility of Pittsburgh using their first-round pick to select Alabama running back Najee Harris, but there are a handful of positions they need more than a running back, such as offensive tackle, center and cornerback. Thankfully for them, Sermon, who transferred to OSU from Oklahoma following his junior year, should be available even after the Steelers fulfill these needs in the first 2-3 rounds.
A 6-foot, 221-pound bruiser, Sermon would meet the Steelers dire need for a back that can dominate short-yardage situations.
No Steelers News: Benny Snell/Anthony McFarland
It is fairly likely that the Steelers spend money and draft outside of the running back position, and instead turn to the backfield duo they had behind Conner last season. Much of the struggle in the Steelers’ run game was a result of the offensive line. Therefore, fixing that could very well lead to a committee backfield that meets the needs of the offense.
Conner missed three games this past season due to injury, so the Benny Snell-Anthony McFarland tandem has experience leading the run game. Snell rushed for 368 and four touchdowns last season, including a 100-yard game in the season opener. McFarland saw significantly less touches, but his yards-per-carry was nearly the same, at 3.4 compared to Snell’s 3.3.
It may not be the long term fix, but saving money and picks by sticking with the guys they have might be the most effective move of the three for the Steelers.