It’s still a bit early in the week, today being Wednesday, to be talking concretely about certain injury situations as it relates to availability to play on Sunday, but by some comments, it seems a distinct possibility that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be needing a bit more dynamite from their unheralded backfield tandem, deemed ‘TNT’.
Having gone off to see a specialist, DeAngelo Williams’ chances of playing were allegedly described as one team source as “not looking good” after he missed the Wildcard round due to a foot injury that he suffered while being tackled in the regular season finale.
Replacing him was Fitzgerald Toussaint in the starting lineup, and backing him up was Jordan Todman, who actually began the regular season as the backup to Williams before essentially becoming the fourth running back on the depth chart with the exclusion of injuries.
Toussaint, a second-year former undrafted free agent, and Todman, a fourth-year former fourth-round draft pick, combined to have a very good and encouraging game against the Bengals on Saturday, producing in total 183 yards of offense, with 123 coming on the ground and another 60 yards coming through the air.
Toussaint carried 17 times for 58 yards, with a few nice runs, and added four receptions for 60 yards, while Todman chipped in 65 rushing yards on 11 carries. Together, they averaged about 4.4 yards per carry on 28 rushing attempts, which was certainly enough to help sustain the offense in Cincinnati.
But if Williams misses the Divisional round game against the Broncos, we are going to have to find out if they can produce a repeat performance, or if it was a bit of a fluke—or something in between. Todman has at least had some experience in the league, but Toussaint has had very few opportunities leading into his first career start Saturday.
The Broncos were, by the way, not just the best passing offense in the league this season, they were also among the best rushing defenses, finishing third in yards allowed per game with just 83.6 yards surrendered. The Seahawks led in that category by just 2.1 yards per game, to get some perspective as to how slim that margin was.
Oh, and by the way, opponents averaged just 3.3 yards per carry against them this year, the best in the league. While they did allow 10 rushing touchdowns, it was the only way that many teams could even manage to score against them due to their tight pass defense.
The Broncos were one of just seven teams to allow less than 20 percent of their carries faced to go for a first down, and they allowed just five explosive runs all year, with only two teams allowing less, at four.
While the Bengals were not necessarily slouches against the run, finishing seventh in yards allowed, that was partly because teams passed on them more. They still allowed 4.3 yards per carry while facing the fewest runs in the league. The Broncos will be a much bigger test to see how explosive the Steelers’ TNT duo can be.