The Steelers have interest in free agent running back Mike Tolbert but it’s unclear how much for certain at this point. Nothing is set in stone for sure but it’s a possibility nonetheless to explore amidst all the constant rehashing of old news that everyone seems enamored with these days. Talks broke down between Tolbert and the Chargers on Thursday night and he is now actively seeking employment elsewhere. According to Will DePaoli on twitter earlier this week: NFL source says #Chargers RB Mike Tolbert “would love to be a Steeler” and “he is everything Steelers are about”
Rumors have it that he may be scheduled to visit with the Steelers soon and assuming the team likes what they see it will come down to how much they can afford to pay him. Even with the pay cut/restructure that Casey Hampton worked out with the team they still have other priorities to consider such as trying to work out a long term deal with Mike Wallace. As of now they are about $4.5 – $5 million under the cap so even if they do sign Tolbert it’s likely another restructure or possible release could be in the works.
DePaoli reported today on twitter: #Steelers pursuit right now of Tolbert is classic #Steelers. Player had initial interest, team waited for market to develop, then pursued. Decision for RB Mike Tolbert expected this weekend. As mentioned on Tuesday, Tolbert has been pushing to sign with #Steelers.
There’s plenty of time to dive into that though, for now let’s look at the pros and cons of bringing in a guy like Tolbert to join the running backs.
He’s a battering ram, power back but also versatile enough to fill numerous roles on the team; something the Steelers always love in a player. He played in 15 games last season as a role player in the Chargers offense.
Pros: PFT tells us: The 5-foot-9, 243-pounder saw his offensive role expand the past two seasons with a combined 303 carries, 1,225 yards and 19 touchdowns. His skills in pass protection led to a featured role in the team’s two-minute and third-down packages, and he was deployed regularly near the goal line.
Last year, he caught 54 passes for 433 yards and two scores. His teammates voted him their special teams player of the year.
He’s also a special teams contributor, with 10 solo tackles last season.
Cons: He had some injury problems in 2011, having his leg rolled up on in opening weekend and also a hand injury late in the year. He split time with Ryan Matthews and eventually saw his carries drop.
Obviously the money would be an issue and a big one at that. From what we know it was the main sticking point for the break down in contract talks with the chargers. We don’t yet know for sure how much he was asking for and the Steelers don’t have much wiggle room but if olbert is serious about wanting to play for the Steelers, it’s absolutely conceivable that they can work out a deal. Perhaps they go with a large signing bonus that they can spread out over several years, and low salary in the first year to ease the cap hit.
As far as the team goes, there won’t be much speed to speak of in the backfield if they do sign Tolbert. He’s a power back and although he’s not the slowest guy in the world, it would seem to be that the team is looking to regain that power back mentality if he’s brought on board. Current running backs on the roster like Isaac Redman, John Clay, and Jonathan Dwyer are not going to outrun anybody but they will get you the tough yards and help move the chains. Redman especially, as we’ve seen, has good feet for ‘back that runs as tough as he does.
Baron Batch would likely fill the role of speed since Rashard Mendenhall doesn’t figure to be ready to start the season as he recovers from the ACL surgery. Speaking of Mendenhall, what does this say about his future with the team? Could the Steelers release him before the season starts? Perhaps it makes guys like Clay and Dwyer expendable if Tolbert is brought in. Those are all questions we can get into and all are definite possbilities if and when the team actually signs the free agent but one thing is clear, it will be quite a battle in training camp this summer with the running backs.