With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Fitzgerald Toussaint.
As it currently stands, Fitzgerald Toussaint, as a pending restricted free agent, is the only running back currently on the roster with any sort of meaningful experience that would be easy to retain following this season, as both of their top backs are in the final years of their current deals.
That makes it all the more important that Toussaint show something that tells the front office that he can be a valuable cog in their machine for years to come, perhaps even their top backup, considering that their current backup, DeAngelo Williams, would be playing as a 34-year-old man next season if he doesn’t end up retiring.
A former undrafted free agent, Toussaint bounced on and off the Ravens’ 53-man roster and practice squad as a rookie in 2013 and was sparsely used whenever he was active. He failed to make the roster last year and the Steelers eventually added him to the practice squad, though he wasn’t even the first running back to make the practice squad. He was added a day later.
He stayed on the practice squad most of the season until the bye week, when he was promoted, and after another week or two, he was promoted again to the top backup behind Williams, who was at that point the starter due to injury.
By the time the playoffs came around, of course, it was Toussaint starting, and he impressed in that first game, recording 118 total yards on the ground and in the air and performing admirably in pass protection. The following week, he scored his first touchdown on a one-yard run, but he also struggled in the passing game, and crucially lost the game-turning fumble on the cusp of field goal territory with 10 minutes left to play.
It seems clear to me that there is something to work with in Toussaint. At the bare minimum, he at least knows what he is doing. He knows his blocking assignments and knows how to take what he is given in the run game, and can catch a ball or two. But if he wants to have a meaningful role outside of an injury emergency, he has to show that he can be more than merely competent. Having an actual offseason and preseason with the Steelers will certainly help that cause.