Now that training camp is over with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in Pittsburgh and gearing up for what they hope will be a much more productive season, it’s time to take stock of where the team stands. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of training camp and the preseason and the regular season as it plays out. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning for each one. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: RB Anthony McFarland Jr.
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The third-year running back has patiently waited for his opportunity to play this year, demoted to the practice squad in light of the emergence of rookie Jaylen Warren in the backfield. With Warren missing the last game due to injury, McFarland got the chance to play and most the most of his limited opportunities.
A fourth-round draft pick out of Maryland in 2020, many hoped that Anthony McFarland Jr. would be able to add a dimension to the Steelers’ backfield that had been missing: speed. He showed speed and quickness on his college tape that Pittsburgh has not had in a successful running back since, well, I suppose Willie Parker.
Of course McFarland can’t exactly be said to have been a success, or he wouldn’t have found himself on the practice squad by his third season. Be that as it may, we’re talking about Monday’s game, which marked his first playing time since the 2021 season.
First, the numbers. He totaled 41 yards from scrimmage on eight touches, rushing for 30 yards on six carries and gaining 11 yards receiving on two catches. He had a 14-yard run and a 12-yard reception. His other reception was a blown-up screen that obviously went for a loss of one, about which he could do little.
More importantly, his touches themselves were quality. There were times where he showed good vision, particularly on his 14-yard run. He also showed some of the elusiveness that we were expecting to see out of him when he was first drafted.
With both Warren and Najee Harris currently dealing with injuries, it’s quite possible that one or the other will miss the Steelers’ next game. In such an event, McFarland will surely get another opportunity to contribute as the offense looks to continue to pick up the pace in their success on the ground, which has been pretty effective in the three games since the bye week.