Steelers Free Agent Focus: Need to Keep (up with) the (Felix) Joneses?

Sometimes history and happenstance hook up to and make for some uncanny encounters. In the 2008 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Rashard Mendenhall precisely one pick after the Dallas Cowboys chose Felix Jones.

And so it was that the year that the Steelers said goodbye to Mendenhall, they ended up making a rare player-for-player trade to acquire Felix Jones from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Capsule Profile of Felix Jones as a Pittsburgh Steeler

Unlike other players in this series, Jones doesn’t have much of a body of work to summarize. He appeared in 15 games for the Steelers, starting in week 2 vs. the Bengals and week 3 vs. the Bears, until giving way to Le’Veon Bell in week 4 in London vs. the Vikings.

Even when he was starting, however, Jones never saw more than 10 carries in a game.

Case for Keeping Felix Jones

When seeking depth in the form of veteran back ups, some star power is a plus, but stability is sufficient. In that respect, Felix Jones appears to fit the bill. Although his chances were limited, a review of his efforts showed him to be a confident, competent change of pace back for the Steelers.

Or did they….?

Case for Letting Jones Walk

…The perception/memory of Felix Jones and his actual performance are perhaps two different issues. Like Issac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, and Bell, Jones numbers are not terribly impressive. 48 carries for 184 yards and no touchdowns, with 9 catches for 73 yards. Dwyer only ran for 13 more yards, but Dwyer’s was used much more frequently in short yardage situations, and by most accounts put more impressive runs on tape.

If the Steelers see it as a Jones or Dwyer situation, Dwyer gets the edge, despite his checkered history. Even if it’s not, Jones 2013 performance suggests the team can do better than him as a back up.

Curtain’s Call on Felix Jones

One of new running back’s coach James Saxon will be to provide input on who should back up Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers will likely look to bring in another running back in either mid or late rounds, but a veteran presence is essential.

2013 was bad year for the Steelers once vaunted rushing attack. Perhaps that’s because of offensive line instability. Perhaps its simply because the offense has evolved to the point where Ben Roethlisberger really is the focal point. While much has been made of Bell’s low rushing totals, he only played in 13 games, far less attention has been paid to Dwyer or Jones performance.

The Steeler’s number 2 rushers in 2011, 2009, and 2008 In were Isaac Redman, Willie Parker, and Mewelde Moore.

  • Each of those back up rushers out performed Dwyer and Jones combined rushing total for 2013.

The Pittsburgh Steelers could do worse than Felix Jones for depth at running back, but they owe it to themselves to see if they can do better and as such any move to resign Jones should wait until after the 2014 NFL Draft.

Thanks for visiting. Click here for the rest of Steel Curtain Rising or here to see our Steelers 2014 Free Agent Focus.

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