The Pittsburgh Steelers waived RB Chris Rainey, according to this ESPN.com report, after he was charged with simple battery on January 10, 2013. The Steelers drafted Rainey in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft because of his speed and versatility to be a running back, wide receiver and kick returner. Although Rainey seemed to begin to improve as a kick returner, he was never really included in the offense like most fans thought he would be. Rainey finished the season with 1213 total combined yards, mostly on kick returns, with two touchdowns and three fumbles, one lost.
Before this incident, I had seen a lot of mock drafts having the Steelers taking a running back as early as the second round in the upcoming draft. Personally I never really thought that the Steelers would take a running back that high and even now I do not believe they will take one earlier than possibly the third round. The Steelers are almost guaranteed to lose Rashard Mendenhall in the offseason, which leaves the team technically with zero running backs currently under contract. Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman will be back, but both are restricted free agents. Even Baron Batch is an exclusive rights free agent this offseason.
Dwyer, Redman, and Batch will surely be back with the Steelers with Dwyer being the leader right now to begin the 2013 season as the starter. I also think there is a good chance that the Steelers bring back running backs John Clay and Jason Ford to camp to compete for a roster spot. Before being injured, I thought Clay had a real shot at making the roster and Ford showed some good potential in his limited time with the team as well. Although the team signing either of them is just speculation on my part, if it happens that would give the team five running backs in camp already with only three to four with a real chance to make the final roster.
I am not against the Steelers drafting a running back this year I just feel the team has bigger needs that can be addressed early in the draft. Possibilities in the mid rounds could be Ray Graham (Pittsburgh), Cierre Woods (Notre Dame), and Robbie Rouse (Fresno State) just to name a few. The one thing that all three of these backs have in common is that they are all capable receivers which would give the team a nice compliment to Dwyer and Redman.
The one thing I think changes now with the release of Rainey is that the team may draft a return specialist late to compete in camp. With Rainey gonem the return duties currently fall on Emmanuel Sanders. While he has shown the ability to perform in that area, the team needs another guy as well to be able to fill that role. The team took Antonio Brown off of kick returns to avoid him getting injured and to have him focus on receiver and finding another guy would allow them to do the same with Sanders.
The Steelers were already most likely going to add another receiver to deal with the possible departure of Mike Wallace and Plaxico Burress. Now they may just take two receivers in the draft; one who can return kicks and another who is more polished as a receiver.
All the release of Chris Rainey does is top off the truly disappointing 2012 season for the Steelers.