The Pittsburgh Steelers have made a change at running back thanks to a training camp injury.
Pro Football writer Mike Mitchell reported on July 31 that the Steelers signed running back John Lovett to their 90-man roster. Lovett played at Penn State and Baylor during his college football career and most recently spent a season with the Vegas Vipers in the XFL.
Triblive.com’s Chris Adamski speculated that Lovett will replace Alfonzo Graham on the roster. Graham exited practice on July 29 with a shoulder injury, and Adamski reported Graham was wearing a sling on his right shoulder the following day.
On July 31, the running back tweeted that he suffered a torn labrum, which will cause him to miss the 2023 season.
Steelers Now’s Nick Farabaugh reported that Graham sustained his injury during the team’s 7-on-7 drill when he leaped for a ball and landed with his shoulder.
Graham took a cart into the locker room.
Steelers Host Try Out for Four Running Backs
Before Graham announced the seriousness of his injury, the Steelers entered the market for a new running back.
NFL insider Aaron Wilson reported the Steelers worked out four running backs on July 31 — Lovett, Greg Bell, Stevie Scott III and ZaQuandre White.
The Steelers also hosted long snapper Bradley Robinson for a workout.
Obviously, according to the reports, Lovett was the player they chose to sign.
Steelers Sign Former Penn State RB John Lovett
With the Steelers, Lovett will receive his second chance to make an NFL team.
After going undrafted last year, Lovett spent time with the Carolina Panthers during 2022 training camp. He signed with the Panthers practice squad on August 31, 2022, but he didn’t play in a regular season game.
In college, Lovett played four years at Baylor before transferring to Penn State for his final year of eligibility. Lovett rushed for 1,803 yards and 17 touchdowns in four seasons at Baylor. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry for the Bears.
At Penn State, Lovett recorded 177 rushing yards during the 2021 season. He averaged 3.4 yards per rush.
Lovett finished his college career with 2,199 yards from scrimmage, 346 kickoff return yards and 18 touchdowns.
He will compete with Anthony McFarland Jr., Jason Huntley and Darius Hagans for one of the depth running back spots on the Steelers 2023 roster.
Could the Steelers Still Trade for Another RB?
With Graham’s injury, rumors about whether the Steelers could trade for another running back are likely to return.
Pittsburgh possesses a formidable 1-2 punch in the offensive backfield with Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. Harris has rushed for a pair of 1,000-yard seasons to begin his career while Warren averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 593 yards from scrimmage as a rookie in 2022.
But the Steelers don’t have a lot of running back experience on the depth chart behind Harris and Warren. McFarland had 42 rushing attempts in his first three NFL seasons with the Steelers. Last year, he dressed for only one game; he spent most of 2022 on the Pittsburgh practice squad.
If that lack of experience becomes a concern, former Steelers veteran Benny Snell Jr. is an option. Currently a free agent, Snell played 63 games for the Steelers from 2019-22. He dressed for all 17 contests last season and recorded 90 rushing yards on 20 attempts. He also played 284 special teams snaps.
Trading for an experienced running back could also be a possibility for the Steelers. Waiting to see what running backs become available through training camp cuts or as the result of Dalvin Cook signing with a new team are other avenues the Steelers could take to find more experience for their running back room.