1:35pm: The Steelers have officially signed Tate, the team announced today in a press release. Pittsburgh cut wide receiver Justin Brown to create an opening on the 53-man roster for the incoming addition.
8:14am: With Le’Veon Bell‘s status for Saturday’s Wild Card game up in the air, the Steelers are hosting free agent running back Ben Tate for a visit today, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). According to Schefter, assuming the visit goes well, Pittsburgh is expected to sign Tate.
It’s been an underwhelming season for Tate, who was viewed as a breakout candidate heading into 2014 after leaving Houston, where he had backed up Arian Foster for the first few years of his NFL career. In Cleveland, Tate struggled and was hampered by injuries early in the season, and fell behind rookies Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West on the team’s depth chart. The Browns opted to release Tate, at which point the Vikings claimed him on waivers, but the 26-year-old didn’t impress in Minnesota either, and the team cut him last week.
For the season, Tate accumulated just 371 rushing yards on 119 carries, good for an average of 3.1 yards per rush. That’s a significant step down from the 4.7 mark he posted during the previous three seasons in Houston, over a span of 421 carries.
Bell suffered a hyperextended knee during the Steelers’ regular season finale against the Bengals, and is considered highly questionable for this weekend’s game against the Ravens. If Bell can’t go, and Pittsburgh does bring Tate aboard, the Auburn product may be thrown into the mix immediately — among the team’s other options, third-round pick Dri Archer likely isn’t ready for a featured role, while fellow rookie Josh Harris had just nine rushing attempts all season. In fact, with LeGarrette Blount now playing in New England, no current Steelers running back besides Bell had more than 10 carries in 2014.