The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster seems set heading into training camp in just a couple of weeks. But as Dave Bryan has repeatedly examined, the Steelers group exiting OTAs rarely is the 90-man pool they choose from to create their Week One 53-man roster. Meaning, there’s usually at least one player, often more, added to the team in some form or fashion (signing, trade, waiver claim) for the start of the season.
If there’s one position and one name I’d argue should come aboard prior to camp, it’s veteran running back Malcolm Brown.
Of course, any player still sitting in free agency probably comes with a sense of caution. There aren’t many high-prized guys out there but there are a couple in RB Dalvin Cook and WR DeAndre Hopkins. It’s worth noting running backs have a tendency to sit, be more patient and willing to wait for an opportunity to present itself where their market could gain traction instead of being Part C of a messy committee.
Why Brown? He has the size the Steelers covet. Their running back room always runs on the hefty side and Brown came out of Texas at 5’11, 224 pounds. He’s had a modest but not terrible career, averaging exactly 4.0 yards per carry on 349 attempts. His most productive year came in 2020 with the Los Angeles Rams, carrying the ball 101 times for 419 yards and five rushing scores. He didn’t carry the ball much last year, only 18 times, but found the end zone once, this long run up the middle against the Los Angeles Chargers.
But when it comes to the Steelers’ #3 running back spot, special teams is what really matters. That’ll be the role of that position until and unless there’s an injury. Brown can do that, too. He’s logged over 700 career special teams snaps, including 88 in only eleven games last season with the Rams. For years earlier in his career, he was posting over 130 special teams snaps on an annual basis.
With size, special teams experience, and a veteran background, he’d round out the room well. He also seems like a good dude, creating the Malcolm Brown Foundation and holding a gala earlier this year to raise awareness over mental health battles. He also held a youth cheer camp last month.
I’m as excited about the young guys currently on Pittsburgh’s roster as anyone, it’s shaping up to be a fun battle, but Brown would be a different type of back with a different resume. Anthony McFarland is older but I wouldn’t call him a true vet and his skillset is very niche, limited, and so far, unproductive. Alfonzo Graham lacks size while Darius Hagans (and Graham) are rookies who are projections only, even if both guys are intriguing.
The concern here would be spreading out snaps too thin, making it hard to evaluate the group. In a corresponding move, I’d cut the other running back in the room, Jason Huntley, to not oversaturate the position. Running back depth should be strong in the summer. As last year showed when Najee Harris, Benny Snell, and later Master Teague got hurt, the lines can get thin pretty quickly.
Ideally, Snell would come back, it’d be the most seamless thing, but let’s assume for a second that door is closed for whatever reason. I’d move onto Brown, who should sign a one-year minimum deal with little to no guaranteed money. It’s “risk free” as they say and would round out a roster that has gotten stronger, deeper, and definitely looks different compared to a year ago.