The Pittsburgh Steelers have some questions surrounding their running back position in 2012. According to various reports, Pittsburgh does not expect RB Rashard Mendenhall to contribute in 2012 with sources stating that the club does not expect the running back to contribute on the field until 2013. The problem for the Steelers is that Mendenhall will be a free agent after this coming season.
The current Steelers roster is stocked with youthful but inexperienced running backs. Currently, the Steelers would likely head into 2012 with Isaac Redman as the penciled in starter provided the club makes no moves at running back. Redman had 110 carries for 479 yards and three scores in 2011 for the Steelers.
Pittsburgh has spent most of the free agency period, juggling their roster, releasing veteran players in order to free up salary cap monies while trying to determine what to do with WR Mike Wallace. Rumored to have interest in free agent RB Mike Tolbert, Pittsburgh has made no moves toward addressing the potential need. Perhaps the Steelers could fill the need by executing a trade with the Carolina Panthers.
Carolina is arguably the deepest team in the NFL at the running back position currently. With DeAngleo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert and Mike Goodson, Stewart might be a candidate for a possible trade.Stewart, 25, has one year remaining on his rookie contract and has been a highly effective running back, despite splitting carries with RB DeAngelo Williams.
Stewart has rushed for 3,500 yards and scored 26 touchdowns in the last four seasons while recording a 4.8 yard per carry average. Stewart would likely come with a high draft pick associated with him however. The asking price for Stewart could be a low first-round to high second rounder.
Given the current financial situation the Steelers find themselves, coupled with the need to rebuild an aging team, it’s possible that the Steelers would steer clear of having to surrender a high draft choice on Stewart. But I’d expect them to inquire as to the asking price.
Carolina would be wise to get whatever they can for Stewart this season though. The Oregon product will be a free agent in 2013 and the team will likely be unwilling to offer him a long-term high dollar deal with DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert currently under contract.