You may forgive me if I admit to not knowing a great deal about Fitzgerald Toussaint prior to last week. He is a second-year former undrafted free agent who was only signed to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad after the preseason was over. Heading into the Week 17 game that resulted in DeAngelo Williams’ injury, he had just six carries in four games with the Steelers.
I didn’t know what to expect from Toussaint in a starting role, but after I reviewed the season finale against the Browns, I came away feeling much better than his 12-carry, 24-yard effort suggested. And he vindicated my confidence and then some with his, and Jordan Todman’s, gritty performance against the Cincinnati Bengals’ defense.
With the Steelers offense down both Williams and, of course, Le’Veon Bell, they were tasked with relying upon two young running backs without much experience who were not even with the team in the preseason, and they merely turned in a 28 carry, 123-yard effort, adding four receptions for 60 yards, while at first blush appearing to block well in pass protection to boot.
The anointed ‘TNT’ backfield of Toussaint and Todman gave the Steelers the comfort to run the offense as they had all season, having the confidence in their unheralded runners to be accountable and to perform their basic duties while turning in a quality performance, and that is exactly what they were able to get.
Much unlike the 2014 postseason appearance that featured the services of Ben Tate, Josh Harris, and Dri Archer, none of whom are currently on a roster, the Steelers got out of Toussaint and Todman exactly what they needed and more.
Toussaint in particular was impressive in his receiving ability, catching the aforementioned four passes for 60 yards, including an early 27-yard catch and run, not to mention a spectacular mid-route adjustment to catch a third-down check down from Ben Roethlisberger on the game-winning drive to secure the first down.
Toussaint got a lot of the hard carries, but Todman was equally, if not more impressive as a runner, actually leading the two backs with 65 yards on 11 carries, several of which displayed not only impressive burst, but also surprising elusiveness with cutback runs and inside jump cuts.
Perhaps Toussaint and Todman are not quite the dynamic duo of Bell and Williams, who combined had a phenomenal season that included 14 rushing touchdowns and plenty of yards, but the Steelers were without a doubt well-served by these two players deep in the depth chart, who have vied for backup reps late in the season.
Toussaint spent the first 10 games of the season on the practice squad before being promoted during the team’s bye week, replacing Isaiah Pead, who was signed after Bell’s injury. He spent his first game on the roster on the inactive list, but a game later, he swapped places with Todman, who was inactive the last five games.
With nobody in front of them, however, both under the radar backs were given the spotlight to showcase what they can do, stepping up in the postseason to help the Steelers advance for the first time in five seasons.