A lot of people don’t seem to be particularly exhilarated or, dare I say, inspired by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision to go with third-year running back Fitzgerald Toussaint as their practice squad member at the position. I happen to think that it is a virtually ideal choice, and here’s why.
For one thing, you already have your coveted ‘developmental’ running back in Terrell Watson on the 53-man roster. Under what most would consider to be normal circumstances in terms of how the Steelers are viewed to do business, it would be Toussaint on the 53-man roster and Watson on the practice squad. So wanting another player in the hopes of finding a diamond in the rough is almost getting greedy.
But on a more fundamental level, Toussaint is in many ways the prototypical practice squad player. The primary function of the practice squad is to allow teams to carry out their practice sessions, and that includes preparing for upcoming opponents either by going up against the first team defense or even mimicking a specific player on the other team.
You are probably not going to find somebody who is more of a team player than Toussaint. He may be the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none that many are tired of, but the fact that he is capable of doing a little bit of everything—and of passing it on to others—is of benefit to the team.
And not to put too fine a point on it, but the diamonds in the rough on the practice squad, particularly at the running back position, are few and far between. Consider some of the names that have come and gone from the list over the course of the past several years, only three of which by my count have ever even spent a second on the 53-man roster.
Cameron Stingily. Dreamius Smith. Brandon Brown-Dukes. David Cobb. Karlos Williams. Rajion Neal. Dominique Brown. Joshua Harris. LaDarius Perkins. Alevester Alexander. Ray Graham. Baron Batch. John Clay. Tristan Davis. Justin Vincent. Isaac Redman.
These are the names of all—or at least the vast majority—of running backs who spent time on the Steelers’ practice squad since 2009. Only Redman, Clay, Harris, and Batch spent any time on the 53-man roster, and only Redman was a particularly noteworthy addition.
Generally speaking, this is not how quality running backs are found very often, and there was talk about some of these players, like Cobb, Alexander, and even Graham and Clay. Of course, Williams had his own subset of problems.
But for what the practice squad is really supposed to be, having a veteran player with a team-first attitude and a wealth of experience not only with the system, but executing it, Toussaint is a very fine choice, and I have a hard time seeing it otherwise. In fact, I regret not having him on the practice squad on my final 53-man roster prediction, because it just makes too much sense.