Kerrith Whyte may have just joined the team, but he must understand that there is a very real chance he is going to get work on offense for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday when they face the Cincinnati Bengals. It will depend upon who else will be available at the time, but Tony Brooks-James was also used right away, even if sparingly, after he was called up from the practice squad.
Whyte’s circumstances are a bit different. The Steelers signed him off of the Chicago Bears’ practice squad, so he is entirely new to the team, whereas Brooks-James was on the practice squad for a bit prior to being promoted. Whyte is also a rookie, but he spent the first three games on the Bears’ 53-man roster before being waived.
It’s unclear why the Steelers chose to look another way, waiving Brooks-James to sign Whyte. Both are faster, more athletic backs. Whyte has sub-4.4 speed, and has more of a history in kick returns, which is necessary now that Ryan Switzer is on the Reserve/Injured List. For his part, he said that he is up for anything.
“I’m not sure as far as details like that, but wherever they need me at or want me at, I’m ready to play for them”, Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted the newcomer as saying, though of course I can’t recall a time when a new player has ever said that he expects the team to use him only in the ways he would prefer.
“I’m just learning from a backseat view, soaking in the game”, he told reporters. “Learning from what the vets do, what not to do, so I can stay in this league a long time”. Of course, nobody in front of him, at least among those able to practice, has been in the league a long time or has much experience.
With James Conner sidelined, the most experienced running back on the roster in terms of time in the league is Trey Edmunds, who has spent much of his career on practice squads rather than 53-man roster, and only has perhaps a couple dozen touches in his two and a half seasons in the NFL.
Outside of him, there is Jaylen Samuels, a second-year player with five career starts to his name in 22 games played. While he has had some success, it hasn’t come recently. He is currently averaging 4.7 yards per touch in his career, with 101 carries and 60 receptions.
Brooks-James ultimately recorded eight carries in the three games he played in for the Steelers. He gained seven yards from scrimmage on those seven plays. He also recorded 32 yards on two kick returns. Collegiately, Whyte recorded 2115 kick returns yards with two touchdowns, averaging 26.1 yards per return. 26.1 yards was what Brooks-James averaged in his best season.