2023 Steelers Post-Draft Roster Review: The Running Backs
The major events of the 2023 NFL offseason are now complete. With the free agency period and the NFL Draft now behind us, we look ahead at how the Steelers roster has molded from the end of last season until now, and evaluate those changes heading toward training camp, the preseason, and the regular season.
End of Season Depth Chart
As with the quarterbacks review, the usual “free agency” or “draft” reviews get lumped together here, as there was close to zero activity with this group.
Right now, the only true news that’s occurred lately is that the Steelers released former Ohio State RB Master Teague following rookie minicamp. Teague joined the team following an injury to Jeremy McNichols in last year’s training camp. Teague too would get hurt and released, then brought back to the practice squad in November before signing a futures contract in January.
Notably, the Steelers did not re-sign FB Derek Watt and opted to bring in undrafted Iowa rookie Monte Pottebaum to potentially fill that role.
Post-Draft Position Roster
Incidentally, a position which garnered heavy criticism following the departure of Le’Veon Bell years ago as become a strong suit once again. Najee Harris, the team’s first round pick in 2021, enters his third year as a pro. He topped the thousand-yard mark in 2022 (1,034) and scored a combined 10 touchdowns rushing and receiving.
Concerns with overusing Harris as the team had with Bell were vanquished with finding undrafted RB Jaylen Warren during last training camp. Warren complimented Harris nicely, adding 379 yards on 77 carries (4.9 yards-per-attempt) and also caught 28 passes out of the backfield to Harris’ 41.
Benny Snell Jr. remains unsigned by any team, but was mostly relegated to special teams work following Warren’s surge up the depth chart. Anthony McFarland Jr., returns to presumably be the third option. Former New Mexico State RB Jason Huntley and undrafted rookie Alfonzo Graham (Morgan State) round out the running backs on the roster thus far.
I had mentioned in the tight ends article that Connor Heyward is more of an “H-Back” or hybrid player, splitting time as a tight end, despite not fully being one. He might not be a traditional fullback either, and that’s okay, because the Steelers have valued having a true blocking fullback in addition to a chess piece hybrid in their backfield over the years.
That leaves a path for rookie Monte Pottebaum to potentially make the 53-man but he’ll have to earn that by also doubling as a special teams demon.
Overall, the position group looks poised to make a giant jump in 2023 due to the revamping of the Steelers offensive line. If the line is top-notch this season, it will benefit the running backs, especially a now healthy Najee Harris and a second-year player like Jaylen Warren.