In the second round of the National Football League Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected a guy in Mike Adams who comes with more baggage than a US Airways flight from San Francisco. This was a complete 180 from how the Steelers usually do business in terms of avoiding players with so many red flags. Once most of us heard how things went down with Adams prior to the draft, it was an easier pill to swallow.
Perhaps it was the Adams’ move that made the choosing of Florida running back Chris Rainey in the fifth round a little easier to take. Rainey, who is an absolute burner with track-type speed, has some of his own baggage but fortunately it is not to the extent of his new teammate. In September of 2010, Rainey was accused of stalking an ex-girlfriend and made it worse when he texted ‘time to die b****.’
Rainey was eventually suspended by-then Head Coach Urban Meyer for five games while he completed community service and attended some counseling classes. What we often forget about these young men coming into the NFL is that they are also human beings who make mistakes and this certainly appears to a situation where Rainey got caught up in the heat and emotion of the moment and made a poor choice. He has done the right thing since this episode.
At 5’8” 178lbs. Rainey is not going to overpower anyone and certainly isn’t going to be an every down workhorse. What he can provide however is exactly why many feel he is a steal in the fifth round. Unlike many track sprinters whose speed doesn’t always translate to the football field, Rainey’s speed does big time. With a 4.37 40 time, Rainey can more than hold his own against the league’s elite speedsters.
While the Steelers have not said much in regards to how Rainey will translate to their offense, it seems pretty clear to most. As a solid pass catcher, Rainey will be given every opportunity to be a third down specialist who will be charged with picking up blitzes, running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. You should also look for Rainey to be in the slot at times as well as a receiver. Imagine him along with Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown and what you have is a nightmare for defenses with that amount of speed.
Rainey will also have value in the return game as he can return both punts and kickoffs. With Brown seeing more action at wide receiver and with Emmanuel Sanders’ health always a question mark, having a reliable guy to return kicks is vital and Rainey fits that role.
Perhaps one of the most important facets to Rainey’s potential development in Pittsburgh is the reunion with former Gator Maurkice Pouncey who will enter his third season as the Steelers’ center. Rainey lived with Pouncey and his twin brother Mike while they were all in high school. Having Maurkice there at training camp and in the locker room should be a tremendous help to Rainey as he deals with the move to the NFL.
Fact of the matter is that many of these young men coming out of college have baggage of one sort or another and frankly, who among us doesn’t? Rainey appears to have turned the corner from a poor decision in a heated moment. Steeler Nation hopes that Rainey and his speed can turn up the heat on opposing defenses in 2012.