Sleeper RB With Complete Game

Are the Steelers looking for another little scatback? With this three-down big back available?

Last week the Steelers brought Lache Seastrunk in for a visit and he looked like the perfect and final piece to a revamped running back corps.

After the signing of LeGarrette Blount to handle the short-yardage and back-up duties for starter Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers only need that electric type of scatback which offensive coordinator Todd Haley allegedly covets.

Or so we've heard.

Haley supposedly LOVES those small, quick, third-down receiving types such as Dexter McCluster and Chris Rainey. Those are two of the running backs Haley-affiliated teams have drafted in the last four drafts, and thus the media believes Seastrunk, or someone like him, will be following in those footsteps.

McCluster, 5-9, 165, has since left the Kansas City Chiefs for the Tennessee Titans. In his best season with Haley, 2011, McCluster rushed for 516 yards and received for 328 -- nothing great for a second-rounder.

Rainey, 5-9, 179, fared worse. In his only season with the Steelers he rushed for 102 yards, received for 60 and fumbled four times. He was cut after an off-the-field transgression.

The problem with using these little backs on pass downs is that they also have to block.

Seastrunk, at 5-9, 201, might be more physically up to the task, but blocking isn't considered one of his strengths. Neither, in fact, is receiving.

Last year, while Seastrunk rushed for 1,177 yards, he received for 0.

Yep. He did a Blutarsky, 0 for 0.

This may or may not be Haley's wish. It may only be a connect-the-dots media theory. So that's why today I present to you a running back who can be had a couple of rounds later, is 28 pounds heavier than Seastrunk, was only .07 slower in the combine 40, can catch the ball, and can also pass block like Dermontti Dawson.

Aw, c'mon, give me a little room for hyperbole, because when I watched the ninja-like hand quickness used by Lorenzo Taliaferro while pass-blocking during practices at the Senior Bowl, I couldn't clear the great Steelers' center from my mind.

Taliaferro is a 6-0 1/4, 229-pounder out of Coastal Carolina, the same school that turned out Mike Tolbert, the 245-pound tailback/fullback entering his seventh NFL season.

The Steelers, in fact, showed interest in Tolbert during his free-agency period two years ago that resulted in Tolbert moving from San Diego to Carolina. Tolbert was also the player who put Coastal Carolina on the map.

"A couple teams mentioned Tolbert," the soft-spoken Taliaferro said at the combine.

I also mentioned to Taliaferro my outrageous Dermontti Dawson single-moment comparison and asked him where he learned to use his hands like that.

"When I first came to college, I came to junior college at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania," said the Yorktown, Va., native. "I weighed about 200 pounds and they moved me to fullback. It was horrible. You don't know any 200-pound fullbacks, and so run-blocking was of course what I had to learn first. I was friends with all the linemen and I used to joke with them about how they would kick slide when they pass-blocked during their individual period, and I used to do it with them just to be funny. And it started to actually contribute to my game. I wasn't actually kick-sliding, but just the foot forward, hands, punch and extend. I think that helped a lot."

Taliaferro had led his prep team to the Virginia state championship and at Lackawanna JC in 2011 he was named the team's Offensive MVP after rushing for 428 yards, receiving for 123 yards, and averaging 27.2 yards per his 11 kickoff returns.

At Coastal Carolina, in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Taliaferro was the short-yardage specialist (5 TDs) in 2012 before becoming the Big South Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2013 by breaking 12 school and conference records. He rushed for 1,729 yards (6.3), caught 23 passes and scored 29 touchdowns last season.

Taliaferro wasn't at first invited to either the Senior Bowl or the combine, but explained how those came about.

"We had a long season, lost in the playoffs to North Dakota State, so I was advised to take a break, rest while I'm home, and when I got back to campus -- since I didn't have any invites -- we were going to get rolling," he said. "So as soon as I got to campus my agent called me and told me that I had an invite to the Senior Bowl. I said OK. I hadn't done anything too much in like three weeks, so I trained real hard that week just to get myself rolling a little bit, and then I had a productive game and practice week and on the way to the airport my agent called me again to tell me I just got an invite to the combine. So I had three weeks to train for the combine. I'm here. At first it was frustrating. It was like, 'OK, I get this late invite and I'm only getting X amount of time to train.' But like they say, this is what I've been training for all my life. It's not like I had to go out there and run a marathon. I had to do some drills, play football, and take care of business."

At the combine, the 229-pound Taliaferro posted nothing exceptional or poor, and ran the 40 faster than the 230-pound Carlos Hyde and the 233-pound Jeremy Hill. Both of those premier prospects were timed at 4.66. Taliaferro ran a 4.58, or the same time as 206-pound Devonta Freeman.

Of the six backs weighing 229 pounds or more, Taliaferro was beaten in the 40 by only one, national rushing champ Andre Williams, who weighed 230 and ran 4.56, but who also went Blutarsky (0 for 0 receiving) at Boston College.

Taliaferro assessed his weaknesses this way:

"I would say flexibility, running lateral at full speed a lot of questions are there, hips, and I don't have film of special teams when I played kick return and personal protector on punt at my junior college before transferring so there's a question mark about my special teams."

And his strengths?

"I would say getting the tough yards, running between the tackles, yards after contact, catching the ball, and pass protection."

Sound like a Pittsburgh Steelers running back?

And pass protection is so very important. Here's what the great LaDainian Tomlinson had to say about pass-blocking on a recent episode of Path To The Draft:

"It's very difficult. The schemes are so complex, guys. I remember my rookie year. We were playing Seattle in Seattle, and they were doing so many exotic blitzes that my head was spinning. I missed so many blitz protections that game the coaches just took me off the field and said, 'Son, sit down.' I had never seen blitz packages like that. And for a young running back that is very difficult to grasp."

While it's true that Taliaferro only played at Coastal Carolina, he was taught pass-blocking by a position coach, Brock Olivo, who was recently hired by the Chiefs. Taliaferro, in fact, credited Olivo with teaching him the finer points of the position which came to light at the Senior Bowl.

Here's just one of the raves about Taliaferro that week from a New England reporter named Mike Loyko:

"Highly impressed with him throughout the week. The top pass-blocking RB on both teams. Caught everything thrown his way in practice today. Has an NFL body. Could end up being this year's Alfred Morris."

Morris, a second-team All-Pro as a rookie in 2012, was drafted in the sixth round, and that's about where I expect Taliaferro to land. The Steelers shouldn't let another scatback get between them.


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