Steelers trade with Eagles for RB Jones
The starting running back for the Steelers' season opener Sept. 8 might not be Le'Veon Bell or Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman or LaRod Stephens-Howling or even Baron Batch.
It might be Felix Jones.
The Steelers' search for a healthy and productive running back extended Friday to Philadelphia, where the Eagles sent Jones, a former Cowboys first-round draft pick, to Pittsburgh for outside linebacker Adrian Robinson in a swap of players who might not have made their teams' 53-man rosters.
The rare trade by the Steelers involving something other than a draft pick is contingent upon both players passing physicals. Jones has a rib injury that has hampered him throughout training camp, and his status is uncertain for the preseason game against the Chiefs on Saturday night.
By going outside an already running back-heavy organization to find yet another halfback, the Steelers signaled that Bell's layoff with a mid-foot sprain could extend weeks into the season. For now, the second-round draft pick is regarded as week-to-week, but even minor mid-foot injuries often require extensive rest to heal. The Steelers do not believe he will need surgery.
Before Bell injured the foot on his fourth carry Monday night against Washington, he missed one game and was slowed during the following week of practice by a bruised left knee. Stephens-Howling has a sprained knee, and Redman and Batch have pinched nerves. Redman and Stephens-Howling sat out the Redskins game.
The Steelers were planning to put an emphasis on the run, and they anticipated Bell, who ran or caught the ball more than 400 times last season at Michigan State, would get the majority of the carries. Now that it isn't certain when he will return, they apparently don't want to go into the season with the same mix of running backs who were part of their second-worst rushing season since the NFL adopted a 16-game schedule in 1978.
The 5-foot-10, 215-pound Jones was the No. 22 pick in 2008 — one spot before the Steelers selected running back Rashard Mendenhall, who is with the Cardinals.
Jones ran for 685 yards in 2009, 800 yards in 2010, 575 yards in 2011 and 402 yards in 2012, including 10 on three carries against the Steelers on Dec. 16. He started seven games last season for Dallas before signing a one-year deal with the Eagles in May that guaranteed him only $32,500. He has 2,728 yards rushing and a 4.8 yards-per-carry average in five NFL seasons.
In Philadelphia, Jones was running behind LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk. He had 12 carries for 45 yards and two catches for 12 yards in two preseason games.
Robinson is an undrafted free agent from Temple who made the roster last season mostly as a special teams player. He was in danger of losing his job to sixth-round draft pick Vince Williams.
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