Like other teams in the NFL that lack a standout runner, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be running a multi-back system this season featuring rookie Le’Veon Bell, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer.
The three back system has been used by other teams in the past, and success sometimes varies wildly. The key with such a system is its reliance on the offensive line’s ability to block more than it relies on any individual’s ability to carry the ball.
In the Steelers’ case, the three backs that will be featured are actually all solid runners, and they all bring something a little different to the field, meaning situations will call for different backs.
Early in games, teams that have a featured back see benefits of the running game that won’t be observed by the Steelers. Elite running backs such as Adrian Peterson or Steven Jackson open up their team’s passing game by simply stepping onto the field. In Pittsburgh, that won’t be the case.
Still, there will be benefits that the Steelers will be able to reap that teams featuring one primary back may not. With three running backs set to get significant carries, the Steelers’ backs will stay fresh far longer than an individual work horse.
In games where the Steelers need to kill the clock or simply get consistent yardage late in the game, the three-back system will pay huge dividends.
It was reported today by Ed Bouchette that the Steelers currently list Le’Veon Bell and Isaac Redman as co-starters on their most recent depth chart, meaning they’ll be getting the bulk of the carries, but Jonathan Dwyer is a great change-of-pace back, and he won’t be left out of the mix, especially in short yardage scenarios.
More often than not, ill-fated attempts at a multi-back system stem from a team’s inability to secure a top-notch runner through the offseason. That seems to be the case in St. Louis where the team is hoping someone emerges through the preseason as their number one running back. That’s not the case in Pittsburgh.
The fact of the matter is that any one of the Steelers’ three runners could probably handle being their starting running back if the need arose. While they’ll be using the running back by committee mantra, they’re still featuring three solid backs that could start with many other teams in the league. Because of that, expect the Steelers to be one of the better teams in the league on the ground. They have solid runners that will be fresh deep in games, and that could be just what the Steelers’ offense needed.