Tiki Barber is reportedly interested in making his NFL comeback with the Pittsburgh Steelers. There are two reasons why the move would be a bad one for the Steelers:
- Barber would likely take carries away from the NFL’s seventh leading rusher.
- The former New York Giant has a history of creating locker room trouble–if you haven’t heard.
Do those reasons outweigh the positives though?
At 36, Barber is on the wrong side of the running back age median and has not played in the NFL since 2006. Don’t be quick to consider these facts negatives though. Barber’s most productive years were his final ones in the league. He recorded over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in each of his last three seasons. The Virginia alum also finished among the NFL’s top-five rushers in every one of his final three campaigns. Consider that no top-five rusher from last season had accomplished the feat in three consecutive years.
Not many back’s can produce such gaudy numbers into their 30′s. So, why would Barber not be successful after four seasons of rest? When you haven’t been hit in four years, the difference between 32 and 36 is only a couple ice baths.. He is also an excellent pass catcher. Barber held top-five rankings in receptions among running backs in each of his final eight seasons. With Mewelde Moore entering free agency after the lockout, Barber could find a role as the Steelers new third-down back.
Not wishing to return as five-attempts-per-game guy, Barber may also have a chance to push starting running back Rashard Mendenhall. The Steelers 24-year-old star concluded last season with more carries than any other back in the NFL. Splitting carries with a backfield partner who is only one season removed from an All-Pro campaign is an interesting possibility.
The former Pro Bowler would not cost much money and already has a rapport with Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin. Still, Barber is not a good option for the six-time Super Bowl Champions. His tag as a hassle and backstabber are not what the defending AFC champions need. If the Steelers were able to reach the Super Bowl without him, how much could he really help anyway?
Pittsburgh must determine whether Barber’s worth outweighs his attitude. The Rooney’s have a reputation for low tolerance when it comes to troubled players–a label that holds little truth anymore. Reality is that the franchise will put up with the problems if the player can win. See Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison for examples. Barber, quite simply, just is not valuable enough to deal with.
There is no reason why Pittsburgh should even offer the former star a tryout. His attitude is not needed, and frankly, his skill isn’t either.