2013 NFL Draft: Running Backs the Pittsburgh Steelers could target

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It’s no secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers must address their woeful running back situation.

With their failure to do so in free agency, all eyes are focused on the 2013 NFL Draft to see exactly how the Steelers will improve a team that went a disappointing 8-8 in 2012.

Jan 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Eddie Lacy (42) runs with the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half of the 2013 BCS Championship game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The opinion of many is that the Steelers will come away with a back in this draft, but the questions are when and whom?

One thing is for sure and that is the fact that they won’t be using their first-round selection (No.17 overall) to address the need, but their potential running back of the future could be selected anywhere from round two through round seven.

It’s clear the Steelers need to improve from ranking 26th in the NFL in rushing and must average more than 3.7 yards per carry as a team.

It’s likely they try and find a guy to help with that over the course of the next three days.

With that being said, let’s look at my Top 10 backs on the board and how they would fit with the Steelers offense.

1. Eddie Lacy, Alabama: Lacy is still the top back on the board, but it’s not as clear cut as it once was. He’s the most NFL-ready back right now and would be a great fit for the Steelers as he has a great combination of power and speed. The problem here is he won’t be available when the Steelers pick at No.  48 in the second round. There’s a small chance Lacy goes late in the first round, but he will certainly be scooped up before the Steelers get a chance to nab him.

2. Jonathan Franklin, UCLA: Franklin has closed the gap on Lacy and I feel he will turn out to be the best back in this draft class. He’s the top prospect of all of the backs and is the complete package. As a runner he’s comparable to a Frank Gore and as a pass catcher resemble Doug Martin. He has a great future and will be the first Pro-Bowler out of this running back class. Franklin would be a great fit for the Steelers at No. 48 and the guy I would like to see them draft. However there’s a better than average chance that he’s not around when the Steelers select in the second round.

3. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: Lattimore represents the biggest risk among the running backs as he has come off serious injuries in back-to-back years. Having said that though, you can’t knock the kid’s pure talent. If the Steelers would be convinced that he isn’t an injury risk, then he would be a great fit and a guy that can be had in the third round. Having said that though, the injury risk may be too much for me to gamble on here.

4. Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State: Bell is another guy I like as I view him as the best power back in the draft. He has tremendous balance, is very strong and punishes defenders with his physical running style. He has great size and is a capable receiver out of the backfield. I’m not crazy about his lack of breakaway speed and he’s not the best decision maker running the football. There are also concerns when it comes to pass protection. That being said, I would be happy to see Bell in a Steelers uniform although I feel there are much better fits.

5. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina: Bernard is a smaller back who plays like he is 250 pounds. He’s capable of running between the tackles and catches the ball very well out of the backfield. His biggest asset is his breakaway speed as Bernard is capable of being a home run hitter in the NFL. He has the best pure speed of any of the backs, but I also think he could end up being a bust. I have concerns about his size and the fact that most of his snaps came from the shotgun in college. Adjusting to a single back or I-formation could take time. I don’t like Bernard as a good fit for the Steelers.

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