This is the second in a series that takes a closer look at the Steelers' positions with free agency and the draft approaching.
Under contract: Le'Veon Bell, Dri Archer and Josh Harris are under contract for 2015.
Free agents: Fullback Will Johnson is a restricted free agent.
The good: Bell is coming off a breakout season, one in which he finished second in the NFL with 1,361 rushing yards and led all running backs with 854 receiving yards. Bell set a slew of Steelers records in just his second NFL season. He turns only 23 this month and the 2013 second-round draft pick appears motivated to build on a season in which he earned All-Pro honors and emerged as arguably the best all-around back in the NFL.
The bad: Bell is such a well-rounded back that finding a quality backup for him might be tricky. The Steelers can’t bring in a proven back via free agency given the discontent that LeGarrette Blount had with his role last season. Archer showed very little as a rookie after the Steelers used a third-round pick on him. Harris is similarly unproven though he is more of a traditional back than Archer. Also, the Steelers figure to be without Bell for a game at the beginning of the 2015 season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, stemming from his arrest last August for possession of marijuana.
The burning question: How confident are the Steelers that Archer and Harris will show the improvement that is needed to shore up depth at running back?
The money: Bell will be one of the biggest bargains in the NFL as long as he plays on his rookie contract. His base salary in his third NFL season is just $779,600. Archer and Harris have base salaries of $518,000 and $510,000 respectively, next season.
Draft priority: Medium. The draft appears to be a deep one for running backs, which mean the Steelers should be able to find a quality one in the middle rounds. They have too many other needs to use a high pick on the position for a second year in a row. But it will be a surprise if the Steelers don’t draft a running back for the eighth year in a row.
He said it: “I just want to continue to try to be as productive as possible. This is only my second year so I feel like I have room for improvement. There’s still a lot of things I can work on and get better at.” – Bell.