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Steelers haven't had a pure speed back since Willie Parker. Could Travis Etienne be the next one?


(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)


The Steelers haven't had a speedster at the running back position since Willie Parker, which was well over a decade ago. Running backs like Rashard Mendenhall, Le'Veon Bell and James Conner did not have breakaway speed. They'll take one to the house from 15-20 yards out on occasion, but not from 60-plus yards out like Parker.


Look at the speed that Parker displayed when he was in Pittsburgh.

I bring this up because there's been a debate among Steelers fans on which of the top three running backs in this year's class should they select -- Najee Harris of Alabama, Travis Etienne of Clemson, or Javonte Williams of North Carolina. It's no secret that the Steelers need a top-tier running back in the draft, and either one of the top three running backs would certainly give a boost to their run game.


Each has its own style, as Harris is probably the most complete back and is the biggest of the three. He runs the ball similar to how Bell ran it with power and patience but doesn't wow you with breakaway speed. Etienne is a pure speed back and can catch the ball out of the backfield the best out of the three. Many compare him to an Alvin Kamara-type of player. And then Williams is a bulldozer of a running back, who has a knack to break away from defenders on first contact. Williams' NFL comparison is Nick Chubb. Like Harris, Williams doesn't have breakaway speed either, but it's a minor issue, as they are both great running backs who should excel at the next level.


There's really no right or wrong answer with these three running backs, it's just a matter of style and which running back would fit best for a team's offense, or the biggest aspect, who will be available. I think if Harris is available at No. 24 overall, the Steelers will take the stud running back. All indications point to that. But if the Dolphins select him at No. 18 or the Jets pick him right before the Steelers at No. 23, Etienne wouldn't be a bad pick at all for the Steelers at No. 24. He might even be a better fit in Matt Canada's offense that likes to use a lot of pre-snap motions and misdirections. It will also be good to have another speed back in Pittsburgh who's able to take it the distance.


Watch Etienne take it to the house from 90 yards out here.

And this 72-yard touchdown run by Etienne.




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