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Colin Dunlap: Steelers Running Back Situation Shaky

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

dunlap-head-shot Colin Dunlap
Weeknights, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Colin grew up in Sharpsburg and...
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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – These three guys aren’t going to cut it.

The Steelers better find a better running back.

As it stands now, in the middle of the free agency window and with the NFL Draft on the horizon, it appears the Steelers’ plan into the 2013 season is to roll with this triumvirate of running backs — Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Baron Batch.

They are, in order: Chronically winded, underwhelming and unproven.

When former 2008 first round pick Rashard Mendenhall signed with Arizona earlier this week after rushing for over 3,500 yards and 29 touchdowns in 57 games with the club, the Steelers might have lost someone who had a perceived lack of want, needs to work on his drive to succeed and definitely has a Twittering problem.

Know what else walked out the door when Mendenhall went West? The most talented back the Steelers had. Unquestionably.

Some will look at Mendenhall’s inability to hold onto the football at times (remember Super Bowl XLV or two fumbles in four carries against Cleveland last season) as a factor that pushed him out of town briskly.

Others will forever force Mendenhall to wear a Scarlet Letter because he didn’t show up for a game in which he was inactive against the Chargers last season, electing instead to stay home when he had zero chance of getting a helmet that day.

Still more people will probably find forever damning Mendenhall’s tweets in regard to one of our nation’s darkest days, when in reference to the 9/11 attacks he disseminated, among other things, “We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”

All those points for calling Mendenhall a guy you might not want on your team are fair.

Truly, they are.

But this is football, there are bad guys walking around locker rooms in every NFL locker room. If you can play, you generally stay. And let’s be real honest here, there’s no such thing anymore as the Steeler Way.

Nonetheless, whether it was Mendenhall who didn’t want to remain here, the Steelers who didn’t want to keep him around — or a mixture of both — the back who had 1,200 and 1,100 yard seasons for the team is now gone.

Now what?

The opinion here is that this is a team that certainly does need to utilize the air attack more, needs to make more of a concerted effort to toss the ball downfield with greater regularity, even as the pass game outgained the run game 3,787-1,537 yards last season in that disappointing 8-8 year.

But in offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s approach, such a commitment to the deep passing game appears unlikely. That said, there will be many times — as there is with all teams — when the run game is vital.

Even if the Steelers do go out and sign a player such as Beanie Wells in free agency, is a player who has been injury-riddled the past few years the true answer?

If the Steelers do, by some chance, select rookie running back Eddie Lacy from Alabama with the No. 17 pick, will he be able to quickly assimilate into the offense and become a force?

The thought here to both those previous questions is a resounding “no.”

If the Steelers do nothing, and go into the 2013 season with a depth chart of Dwyer, Redman and Batch, are you confident in the run game?

I’m not so sure those guys will get it done.

Running Rashard Mendenhall out of town — or him running himself out of town, however you look at it —- might have satisfied some, but the fundamental question is this: Are the Steelers better at running back right now?

There’s simply no way to spin that they are.

Former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sports Writer Colin Dunlap is the featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10p-2a on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com.

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