While we knew going into the regular-season finale that the Pittsburgh Steelers were in all likelihood going to hold Le’Veon Bell out of the game, it wasn’t entirely clear just how extensively DeAngelo Williams would play. It turned out that he played quite a bit, leaving a fairly limited role for Fitzgerald Toussaint—who was their top running back by the time the playoffs came along last season.
His primary role over the course of the game was serving as the third-down back—though not on every occasion—and as you’ll see below, that didn’t always work out so well, though it wasn’t always him to blame, either.
With the Steelers immediately facing a third-and-10 on their third play of the game, the Browns sent home a six-man blitz against six blockers. Toussaint and backup center B.J. Finney struggled to communicate in picking up the two A-Gap rushers, though the back ultimately got a hat on his man.
Later in the first quarter, the offense was right back into a third and long. As they did so frequently, Cleveland sent home yet another blitz, showing late movement. This time, Toussaint did not identify the free rusher and as a result got his quarterback taken to the ground against six rushers.
And he went down yet again for a third sack at the top of the third quarter on a third and long to end another drive. This time, Toussaint was all over his assignment, picking up the blitzing defensive back coming off the left side of the offense and putting him on the ground. The only reason this ended up as a sack is because Landry Jones tripped over his lineman’s foot as he was trying to flee the pocket.
Later in the half, the third-year back did actually get an opportunity to make some contributions that didn’t require blocking. He caught two passes in particular that showed well for himself, demonstrating an elusiveness that is not readily apparent in his game.
With the offense getting on a roll following three straight successful carries from Williams, Toussaint faded out into the flat, where Jones laid it out to him. With a free defender coming in on him behind the line of scrimmage, he made a subtle move to navigate round to would-be tackler to pick up the first down and then some.
Two plays later, on second and nine after a one-yard carry, he got the ball again on another flat route, evading the nearest defender for a 15-yard gain at the end of the third quarter. Mike Tomlin gave him a hearty handshake after that one.
It was good for Toussaint to get a little work in, because he got very little when Bell was active. Of course, he is now third on the depth chart, where he should be, but it never hurts to get your depth a chance to knock the rust off ahead of the playoffs.