Steelers Urged to Sign ‘Physical’ Ex-Pro Bowl Running Back

Mike Tomlin

Getty The Steelers could make a move for RB Latavius Murray.

The Pittsburgh Steelers could be in the market for a backup running back.

As the Steelers enter training camp, one of the glaring deficiencies on their roster is their lack of depth behind running back Najee Harris. At the present moment, Pittsburgh’s top backups are Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland. Snell averaged just 2.7 yards per carry last season, while McFarland racked up a total of four touches on 19 offensive snaps.

According to Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report, the Steelers have a number of running back options on the free agency market. As Knox notes, one of Pittsburgh’s viable options is none other than former Pro Bowl running back Latavius Murray. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound runner spent last season with the Baltimore Ravens, running for 501 yards on 119 carries in 14 games and six starts.

“It would make a whole lot of sense for Pittsburgh to add more depth behind Harris in 2022,” says Knox. “A physical inside runner like Carlos Hyde or Latavius Murray would also make sense if the Steelers are looking to not run Harris into the ground.”

Why Murray is an Option for Steelers

One of the main reasons the Steelers should consider adding a veteran runner is due to Harris’ usage last season. As a rookie during the 2021 season, Harris ranked second in the league in rushing attempts (307) and first in the league in touches (381).

While Harris raked in a Pro Bowl appearance and certainly lived up to his first-round billing as he ranked fourth in the league in rushing yards and all-purpose yards, it’s never a good idea to run your top runner into the ground. Over recent seasons, the Carolina Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey and the New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley have suffered major injuries and have been sidelined partly due to wear-and-tear.

McCaffrey led the league in touches in 2019 and has played in 10 games since. Meanwhile, Barkley ranked second in the NFL in carries in 2018 and eventually suffered a torn ACL in 2020 after just two games played.

In other words, the Steelers would be smart to add another runner to complement Harris.

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Murray Shared Carries in Ravens’ Backfield Last Season

Murray played the complementary role after he was signed by the Ravens following the start of the season. While Murray started six games, Devonta Freeman started eight of them and carried the ball 133 times for 576 yards. By comparison, Murray posted 119 carries.

Due to Harris’ age and production, Murray would hold a much smaller role for the Steelers than he held with the Ravens. But considering Murray is 32 years old with 1,310 carries and eight seasons under his belt, that’s probably the best role for the veteran back at this stage of his career.

According to Pro Football Focus, Murray posted a 65.5 offensive grade and 72.8 rushing grade last season. Murray ranked 28th among all running backs with at least 100 snaps in rushing grade. In fact, Murray’s rushing grade was actually better than Harris’ grade of 70.7.

With Pittsburgh hoping to lighten Harris’ load during his sophomore campaign, the Steelers shouldn’t hesitate in signing a veteran to make life easier for their star runner.

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