There is little doubt Jerome Bettis is no longer a top-notch NFL running back. In fact, at this point in his career, he's not a lot more than average, and that's if he's healthy. But Bettis has finished the last two seasons very much unhealthy and heading into his 11th NFL season, that's not a good thing.
The Steelers will use Bettis this season as a short-yardage back
and as a guy to move the chains when they're trying to run the
clock. He should still be able to do those things. Grade C
Amos Zereoue benefited greatly from Bettis' injuries last
season, rushing for a career-high 762 yards and catching 42
passes. He still takes too many losses looking for a hole and
isn't effective at all when the Steelers are trying to grind out time
late in games. Zereoue proved last season he can be an
effective component of an NFL offense, but he's still not a guy
you'd want to give the ball 300 times. Grade C
There are those out there who believe if he wasn't as fragile as a
China doll that Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala would be a pretty good
NFL running back. I'm not among them. Don't get me wrong.
Fuamatu-Ma'afala can be a decent role player, but you have to
take the injuries into account and he just breaks down every
Just think, had the Steelers not matched New England's offer for
him a couple of years ago, the Patriots would have been saddled
with him and wouldn't have signed Antowan Smith. Think the
Patriots would have won a Super Bowl with Fuamatu-Ma'afala as
their feature back? Me neither. Grade D
Dan Kreider is an excellent blocker and pretty good receiver. But
he's also a fullback and they have a pretty short shelf life. It's
being a crash-test dummy.
But of the running backs on the Steelers' roster, he may be the
only one who is clearly an above-average NFL player at this point
in his career. Then again, he's still a fullback. Grade B-
Verron Haynes was drafted by the Steelers last year to be
Kreider's backup. But they realized in training camp that he was
better suited to be a runner, not a blocker. Haynes also filled in
for a short stretch as the team's third-down back when Bettis
and Fuamatu-Ma'afala were out with injuries. He didn't really
catch the ball well enough, however, to fill that role and later
broke his leg playing special teams. Haynes has promise, but at
this point, he's just another guy. Grade D
The Steelers took fullback J.T. Wall in the seventh round of this
year's draft and also brought in rookie free agent Wes Ours to
compete for a backup spot to Kreider, who's scheduled to be an
unrestricted free agent after the season. Both are true blocking
If one of them makes the team, it could be at the expense of
Fuamatu-Ma'afala if the Steelers choose to go with five running
backs instead of six. Grade Incomplete
Final analysis: It doesn't seem all that long ago that running
back was considered the team's deepest position. That's not the
case any longer and the team will be forced to take a back early
in next year's draft, which should be deep at that position. The
Steelers have solid players at the position heading into this
season, but no stars.
Overall position grade C
Grading The Players - Running Backs
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