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History of the Decade: Running Backs

Written by Dan Gigler on .

[This feature ran in the paper on Sunday as part of a weekly package that will lead up to the draft, but didn't make it online; I'm re-posting it mostly to promo that a similar feature will appear this Sunday as well on the defensive line]

SBXL willie

HISTORY OF THE DECADE: A look at the Steelers' success and failure at running back in the draft and free agency since 2003 ...

2: 1,000-yard seasons since 2003 by a draft pick (Rashard Mendenhall)

3: 1,000-yard seasons since 2003 by an undrafted free agent (Willie Parker -- above)

DRAFT

With Rashard Mendenhall likely on his way out the door and Chris Rainey already having been shown it, the Steelers retain only two of their own draft picks in the backfield: Jonathan Dwyer and Baron Batch.

Dwyer, a sixth-round pick in 2010, seemed to finally exhibit some of the promise ascribed to him when he was labeled a 'steal' on his draft day. The Steelers seem to like 2011 seventh-round pick Batch as a third-down back, but he's been injury prone.

Beyond that, the Steelers picks over the past 10 years reads less like a who's who and more like who's that? Frank Summers or Noah Herron ring a bell? Cedric Humes or J.T. Wall?

FREE AGENTS

Although they clearly caught lightning in a bottle in 2004 by signing undrafted free agent Fast Willie Parker, the Steelers have fared better with running backs acquired in free agency than those drafted.

Issac Redman -- another UFA -- was a part-time starter this season and will figure into the team's plans heading into next season as will UFA fullback Will Johnson.

Traditional free agents have given the Steelers reasonable production, most notably from Mewelde Moore, signed from Minnesota in 2008. Moore had 908 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns in the Steelers' Super Bowl XLIII winning season and was the team's third-down back throughout his tenure.

Green Bay castoff Najeh Davenport's power was a respectable complement to Parker's speed in 2006-07, and ex-Eagle Duce Staley was headed toward a career-year in 2004 (830 yards in 10 games) before injuries ended his regular season and ultimately his career.

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