The Pittsburgh Steelers possess as much running back depth in 2023 as they have in a long time. But that hasn’t stopped national NFL writers from including the Steelers in running back trade rumors.
A new trade possibility for Pittsburgh surfaced on September 27. Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox named the Steelers a potential landing spot for Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor.
“The Steelers might want to consider the Wisconsin product, as 2021 first-round pick Najee Harris continues to underperform on the ground,” Knox wrote. “He’s averaging just 4.0 yards per carry this season and 3.9 yards per carry for his career.
“Taylor could add a new dynamic to what has become a very one-dimensional Steelers offense.”
Taylor won the NFL rushing title in 2021 with 1,811 rushing yards. He also led the NFL with 18 rushing yards and 332 carries that season.
Could Jonathan Taylor Still Be Traded?
In addition to his work on the ground, Taylor posted 40 receptions and 360 receiving yards during 2021. He led the NFL in yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns.
But things have been rocky for the 24-year-old since then.
Last year, he had just 861 rushing yards in 11 games. He dealt with an ankle injury for most of the season. When he was healthy, Taylor ran behind a vastly underperforming Colts offensive line, which led to his yards per carry average dropping by an entire yard.
This year, controversy has surrounded Taylor. He sought a contract extension during the summer, but like the other big-named running backs around the league, Taylor didn’t get anywhere in negotiations. If anything, he hurt his standing with the Colts, who moved him onto the PUP to begin the season.
The Colts placed an arbitrary deadline on trading Taylor prior to the season. A trade didn’t happen because they received no trade offers to their liking.
Taylor will come off the PUP list after Week 4. CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones reported that the 24-year-old running back is still interested in getting traded away from the Colts.
Pittsburgh’s Improving Running Game
If healthy, Taylor will be a boost to any offense he joins. But with the Steelers ground game showing signs of life in Week 3, the likelihood of a Taylor trade to Pittsburgh seems low.
After combining for just 96 rushing yards in the first two weeks, the Steelers ran for 105 yards against the Las Vegas Raiders during Week 3. Najee Harris led the way with 65 rushing yards on 19 carries.
Harris and Jaylen Warren aren’t lighting up the stat sheet this season. Neither is averaging more than 4 yards per carry in 2023. That will lead to analysts such as Knox arguing that the Steelers should be in the trade market for a running back.
But the Steelers were confident in their running back duo prior to the season, and that confidence doesn’t appear to be wavering.
Yards per carry has never been Harris’ strong suit anyway. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry in his first two seasons, and the Steelers still gave Harris enough carries to reach the 1,000-yard plateau in 2021 and 2022.
It will likely take an injury to either Harris or Warren for the Steelers to be interested in trading for Taylor.
The Ravens Another Factor to Consider in Potential Steelers-Taylor Trade
Interestingly, the other team Knox identified as a possible landing spot for Taylor was the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens will be without starting running back J.K. Dobbins for the rest of the season because of a torn Achilles he suffered in Week 1.
If Baltimore expresses interest in acquiring Taylor, it will be fascinating to see if the Steelers attempt outbid their division rival to keep the All-Pro running back away from the Ravens.
It would be costly to enter such a bidding war, but a healthy Taylor with Lamar Jackson is a scary thought.
The Cleveland Browns are another team that could potentially add more running back depth before the NFL trade deadline. The Browns lost Nick Chubb for the season because of a knee injury during Week 2.