During his Tuesday morning press conference, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin let it be known that the team’s top-two running backs, Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, will both sit out the Thursday night preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Because of that decision, we can probably expect to see backup running backs Fitzgerald Toussaint and Daryl Richardson to receive quite a bit of action in that game.
The battle between Toussaint and Richardson has been a fun one to watch develop over the course of training camp and on Tuesday Tomlin was asked if one currently has an advantage over the other.
“No, and we’ve talked quite opening about it,” said Tomlin. “Different guys bring different strengths to the table and have had their moments. It’s going to be interesting to see how they work to minimize known weaknesses and show consistency in areas of strength.”
Tomlin went on to reveal what he’s seen so far out of his two younger running backs in addition what he’ll be looking for out of each moving forward into the preseason.
“Fitz Toussaint has been Steady Eddie from a detailed assignment standpoint,” said Tomlin of the former undrafted free agent out of Michigan. “He’s added value to his cause by being a strong participant in special teams. He had a nice tackle in special teams last week.
“D. Richardson has done some nice things with the ball in his hand. Want to see more detail in his work, we want to see more participation from him in special teams. We want to see more splash from Fitz. So those are the discussions, those are the type of discussions that we’re having.”
In the preseason opener against the Detroit Lions, Richardson was the lone bright spot on offense as the former St. Louis Rams running back rushed for 44 yards on 11 carries in addition to catching two passes for 16 yards.
As for Toussaint, who saw considerable playing time at running back for the Steelers during the team’s two playoff games last season after Williams went down injured in the regular season finale, he gained 8 yards on his two carries against the Lions. While he did start the preseason opener, he only played 17 offensive snaps before giving way to Richardson, who went on to play 24 offensive snaps in the game.
While Toussaint might still be losing a little bit of sleep over the fumble that he had last season in the playoff game against the Denver Broncos, Tomlin apparently hasn’t.
“We’re all human and you can’t forget some of the things he’s done,” said Tomlin of Toussaint. “He’s done some things on some really big stages. He did good things in Denver. Shoot, he probably did better things in Cincinnati the week before that, but more than anything, I think he’s stored those experiences and I imagine those experiences help him in shaping his game and that’s how it’s an asset to him.
“It’s not something that’s in the front of your mind in terms of decision making. Really you’re looking at what he’s doing right now and the manner in which he’s doing it. But you just acknowledge that I’ll imagine that those experiences have been an asset to him and are really shaping the ways in which he’s performing right now.”
Toussaint and Richardson both returned a kickoff against the Lions so there’s a good chance we’ll see them both get opportunities to show off their return skills once again against the Eagles Thursday night. Additionally, as Tomlin pointed out Tuesday morning, Toussaint registered a special teams tackle against the Lions in the 12 snaps he saw on special teams in that game. Richardson, on the other hand, only played two special teams snaps against the Lions.
“All of the men that are candidates have some positive aspects of their game that they need to continue to lean on and it needs to consistently show itself, but they have areas of needed improvement that the next couple of weeks is going to shape their story and ours in terms of their availability and how we utilize them,” Tomlin said Tuesday.