Steelers Sign Veteran Running Back

The Pittsburgh Steelers added depth to its running back room Tuesday, May 21, signing veteran Jonathan Ward.

The team made the announcement shortly after a report of the signing from KPRC 2 Houston’s Aaron Wilson.

#Steelers are signing veteran running back Jonathan Ward, per a league source @KPRC2

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) May 21, 2024

The 26-year-old signed a one-year deal with the team following a tryout during Steelers rookie minicamp on May 10-11.

The former Arizona Cardinal and Tennessee Titan is entering his fifth season in the NFL.

The Cardinals initially signed Ward as an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan in 2020. He has spent much of his career on practice squads and contributing on special teams.

His offensive contributions were most significant during the 2021 season with the Cardinals. He had 9 carries for 33 yards.

Last season for the Titans, the Kankakee, Illinois native appeared in 7 games. He also rushed 3 times for 11 yards.

Ward Impressed at Rookie Mini Camp

The Steelers signed Ward after a standout rookie mini camp.

According to Nick Farabaugh of Steelers Now, Ward specifically appeared to impress Steelers running backs coach Eddie Faulkner.

This is part of the reason why https://t.co/AAfMkQzNRK pic.twitter.com/8yycFRruMp

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) May 11, 2024

This video from All Steelers Talk shows Ward participating in additional drills at rookie minicamp.

“The older you are, the less time you have in the league,” Ward told All Steelers. “At the same time, it’s just football. Coming out and sharing the gems that I’ve picked up over the years with the younger guys, it’s just a blessing, and that also gives me an advantage too because you get a little bit of a player and a coach in the same aspect.”

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Ward Rounds Out Steelers Deep Running Back Room

Like his time with Arizona and Tennessee, Ward will likely continue to contribute most on special teams in Pittsburgh.

He joins a Steelers team with an established running back room in Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren and new addition Cordarrelle Patterson.

Harris and Warren proved to be an effective tandem again during the 2023 season, combining f0r 404 carries for 1,819 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Steelers also utilized them both in the short passing game. They combined for 90 catches for 540 yards.

Patterson agreed to a 2-year, $6 million contract with the Steelers on March 26, according to NFL Network insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero. The Steelers made the move almost immediately after the NFL changed its kickoff rules.

The new rules implement elements of the XFL’s kickoff rules in the hopes of enhancing safety and producing more explosive returns.

Patterson’s 9 kickoffs returned for touchdowns is an NFL record. He was also effective under new Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith while he was head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

In 3 seasons with the Falcons, Patterson rushed for a combined 1,494 yards and 14 touchdowns on 347 carries. He did see a drop-off during the 2023 season with 50 carries for 181 yards.

During his pre-draft press conference on April 22, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin discussed the new rules and the decision to sign Patterson.

“I think we’re all speculating regarding the impact of the new rule,” Tomlin said, via the team’s YouTube page. “We could give you an answer, but it’s speculation. Obviously, we’re making certain moves relative to that, it’s impact on the game. That’s why we went out, signed Patterson immediately, for example, but I think we’re all in the process of figuring out the impact of that play on the game and decision making in terms of roster building and who gets a hat, late-round selections, etc. I think we’ll all have a better understanding of it 12 months from now.”

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