The Pittsburgh Steelers logo is seen on a video board during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft

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Dunlap: What Will The Steelers Do At RB?

Colin Dunlap
April 22, 2019 - 4:10 pm

Who will the Steelers take in the first round of the upcoming National Football League Draft?

Will it be that highly-sought-after inside backer? Will it be a corner? Will a tight end be someone they go for with that 20thoverall pick?

All good questions and ones that have been thrust to the forefront. 

There are more questions that we seem to be pondering about the draft too --- Will the Steelers trade up? Will they trade back? Will they make a trade at all? 

Again, these are the pressing questions. These are the ones the local and national “experts” (and man, there seem to be about 1,236,487 of those now) keep banging around. 

I’m just like you. I am intrigued and captivated by all those questions. The mystery of what will become of that 20th pick has me riveted. 

But there is also something to the upcoming draft that I am ultra-fascinated by from a Steelers standpoint: If they take a running back early. 

Certainly, a running back won’t be taken by the club in the first round. That simply isn’t happening. 

Related: Dunlap: NFL Has Us Perfectly Hooked

But something interesting happened on the path to the draft this season. Of the 33 players the Steelers hosted in the run-up to judgment day --- actually, judgment days now --- eight were linebackers, which was expected. However, the Steelers also met with seven running backs, which was more than any other position other than --- you guessed it --- linebacker. 

All that interests me. 

Here’s why: It will be curious to see if the Steelers go for a running back as early as their 52nd pick overall or somewhere between there and the four other picks (beside the first rounder) they have in the top five rounds. For me, if you take a guy in the top five rounds, you have the anticipation that he will make your team at some point --- and most times sooner rather than later. 

And that is why keeping an eye on if they take a running back with one of their first six picks before the draft gets through 141 selections is something to watch for. If they take a guy with one of those picks, it screams to me that they feel James Conner --- who is entering his third season --- is a full-fledged veteran and someone to be counted on to lead this unit through everything on the field and then the innerworkings of being an NFL back off it. 

If they don’t select a running back with one of their first six picks (all in the top five rounds) it means that I’d look for the organization to go out and grab a veteran off the scrap heap to come in and complement both Conner and the assured backup Jaylen Samuels --- who is entering just his second season.

Are the Steelers prepared to go with three primary backs on their roster who would have two seasons, one season and no seasons of NFL experience? If they draft a guy, that’s exactly what they’d be doing. 

In truth, I’m not averse to that. Actually, it’s probably a better move than bringing in someone much like they did with a Stevan Ridley-type. 

To be sure, if the Steelers do draft a back in a round where he’d customarily make the club, it also signals to me the unyielding and firm confidence they have in James Conner, not just as one of the leaders of that unit, but of the offense in totality. 

It’s all going to be captivating to see what they do this weekend on a lot of fronts. I’m most interested in that first-round pick, but I’m also fascinated by this running back situation. 

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