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Adam Wonderly

AFC North Nation: Solid running backs essential for teams to succeed in NFL

The Cincinnati Bengals are a testament to just how important a running back can be in the NFL. When Bengals running back Giovani Bernard went out with an injury to his hip, rookie running back Jeremy Hill stepped in and made an immediate impact. He was only seeing limited playing time because Bernard had been so good, but now it’s apparent to what the Bengals have in the backfield.

Teams are constantly looking for that one guy who can carry the workload of an entire NFL season and do it on a consistent basis. Now, the Bengals have two of those guys, and it’s a great problem to have. With the inconsistency of quarterback Andy Dalton, running the ball has been more important than ever.

The Bengals have been lucky, drafting two guys in two years that made an immediate positive impact. Some teams in the AFC North have gone elsewhere to try and bring in someone who has already established themselves in the NFL.

The Cleveland Browns picked up running back Ben Tate from the Houston Texans and added him to their three-headed monster in the backfield, which consists of Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. Once Crowell and West get the green light that they will be getting more carries, Tate is out the window. Tate signed a two-year $6.2 million deal with the Browns in the offseason, and it seems the team has already decided it isn’t going to work out.

The Browns are no strangers to making surprising deals when it comes to the running back position. Last year, the Browns traded Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a few draft picks because they didn’t feel like he was the right guy for them.

The Browns aren’t alone in releasing running backs this week. The Pittsburgh Steelers have also joined in on the fun. The Steelers cut Legarrette Blount, who they recently picked up from the New England Patriots. People might remember when Blount got in trouble at the beginning of the year when police found illegal drugs in his car.

Fellow Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell was in the car with Blount, but neither was given a suspension by the NFL or the Steelers organization. Bell has had a much better year for the Steelers than Blount, and I’m assuming that’s why Blount was let go, not because of previous encounters. It just goes to show that if you’re having a great year in the NFL, helping your teams win games and putting butts in the seats, then you have a little more pull in the organization.

Running backs are a rare commodity in the NFL — there are a lot of guys that can get you two or three yards by just being brute force guys. But it’s hard to find a guy that can make home-run plays for you on a consistent basis. For Browns and Steelers fans, let’s hope the organizations have a plan to keep these teams in the race for the division.

Adam Wondrely is a senior studying creative writing and journalism. Who do you have finishing in first place in the AFC North? Email him at

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