Steelers Named Landing Spot for 2-Time Rushing Champion

Mike Tomlin

Getty Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox connected head coach Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers to Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have two young running backs who have the potential to be the team’s best backfield duo since Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker, in the mid-2000s. But that hasn’t stopped running back rumors from swirling around the Steelers.

For much of the offseason, the Steelers were connected to veteran backs who could potentially fill the No. 3 role behind Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. But on September 6, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox linked the Steelers to one of the top backs in the league from the past five seasons — the Tennessee TitansDerrick Henry.

Knox named the Steelers one of two possible landing spots for Henry if the Titans make him available in a trade.

“The Pittsburgh Steelers could provide a sneaky-good home for Henry this season,” Knox wrote. “Pittsburgh won nine games a year ago, has an improved roster on paper and should get a little more out of second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett.

“If the Steelers start fast, they could look to go all-in on a playoff run. Running back Najee Harris has been a serviceable dual threat but has struggled to generate room on the ground (3.9 career yards-per-carry average). Adding a dominant ball-carrier like Henry would finally give Pittsburgh a complete offense.”

Knox also named the Miami Dolphins a potential landing spot for Henry.

How Likely Is It the Steelers Trade for RB Derrick Henry?

There’s no denying that Henry is an elite running back, even at 29 years old.

His yards per carry average has dropped over the past couple of seasons, but he remains a workhorse. Since 2019, Henry has averaged just over 23 carries per game.

His presence in the Steelers offense could transform the unit into an offense similar to the one the team had early in Ben Roethlisberger’s career.

During Roethlisberger’s rookie season in 2004, Bettis and Duce Staley each had more than 190 carries. Together, they racked up 1,872 yards from scrimmage. Then in 2005, Parker rushed for 1,202 yards while Bettis led the team with 9 rushing touchdowns.

In a Steelers offense with an improved offensive line expecting to be run-first with second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett, Henry could win another rushing title.

But Pittsburgh acquiring Henry seems as far-fetched as any Steelers trade rumor this year.

The Steelers aren’t likely to give up on Harris, who is a former first-round pick, regardless of his lower-than-desired yards per carry average. Not when he’s posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to begin his career.

As for Warren, he looked great during the preseason. Against the Buffalo Bills, he rushed for a 62-yard touchdown.

Not to mention, Henry would be strictly a rental player if acquired in a trade this fall. He is set to be a free agent in March.

Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren Form Formidable 1-2 Backfield Punch

Henry has led the NFL in carries during three of the past four seasons. The lone year that he didn’t, 2021, Harris finished first in the league in touches.

Harris has racked up 2,930 yards from scrimmage while touching the ball 694 times the past two seasons. While he hasn’t been as explosive as Henry, the potential for longer runs is there, and Harris contributes more as a pass catcher.

As a rookie, Harris posted 74 receptions for 467 yards. He had 41 catches for 229 yards last year.

Henry had a career-high 33 receptions and 398 receiving yards in 2022.

Trading for Henry could allow Harris to focus primarily on his pass-catching role, but it would disrupt the Harris-Warren duo Steelers fans are excited to see this season.

Warren averaged 4.9 yards per carry as an undrafted rookie last year. If Harris continues failing to produce long runs, Warren will likely receive a significant opportunity to replicate what he did against the Bills in the preseason.

Prior to training camp, trading for a backup running back made sense for the Steelers. But now, even that seems unlikely.

Anthony McFarland Jr. won the No. 3 running back job with a stellar training camp and preseason. So with that, the Pittsburgh running back room appears full.

It would very likely take a significant injury to Harris and/or Warren for the Steelers to pursue a veteran running back such as Henry.

Comment Here
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments