Prior to Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t been linked to many free agent running backs, Green Bay’s James Starks excepted.
That silence was disrupted when ESPN’s Adam Schefter delivered this little nugget via Twitter:
Jaguars free-agent RB Maurice Jones-Drew is visiting the Steelers today, per source. They are not the only interested team.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 19, 2014
Maurice Jones-Drew will be 29 next week, and he’s spent his entire NFL career with the Jaguars, who drafted him in 2006. The 5-foot-8 fireplug peaked from 2009-11, when he surpassed 1,300 rushing yards in three straight seasons.
Jones-Drew made the AFC Pro Bowl team in each of those years, capped by a first-team all-NFL selection in 2011 after posting 1,606 rushing yards and 1,980 total from scrimmage.
Injuries limited Jones-Drew to six games in 2012, followed by a 2013 marked by decreased usage and production. The former UCLA star started 15 games, but his carries (234) and rushing yards (803) were at their lowest levels in a healthy season since 2008.
The Steelers’ running game improved later in the 2013 season as rookie Le’Veon Bell rounded into form following an injury, but backup Jonathan Dwyer signed with Arizona last week. The Steelers probably feel Jones-Drew could still be a useful back in a part-time situation.
As is usually the case in Pittsburgh, the decision will come down to a cost-benefit analysis. According to OverTheCap.com, the Steelers are about $2.7 million under the projected 2014 cap, with some space still necessary to sign this year’s pending draft picks.
Keep it here on City of Champions for more coverage of NFL free agency from a Pittsburgh perspective.