For about as good as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense has been this season, their offense has been just as bad. They have had some bright spots here and there, but all in all, it’s mostly been just a hot mess. As just one example of that, they are about to become the first team in franchise history since 1971 to fail to register at least 30 points in even one game in a season—and they only played 14 games back then.
It appeared for a brief period of time as though the Steelers’ running game might finally be taking off. They rushed for 120 yards or more in three consecutive games, and they did so without the benefit of James Conner, who once again will not be available today.
Benny Snell was the primary party responsible for this, but rookie Kerrith Whyte who had a short time before been signed off of the Chicago Bears’ practice squad, has had a nice little slice of a role for himself over the past month and a half or so as well.
“We have been really enthused by the contributions of some others”, head coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday on his weekly show when commenting on the state of the running game. “Most recently, Whyte, I thought, has been really good, and getting to know him, he’s got some traits that are a little bit different in terms of some of the others, in terms of his ability to get on the perimeter and his speed”.
A seventh-round pick for the Bears, Whyte spent the first three weeks of the season on the 53-man roster, albeit inactive, before being waived and ultimately signed to the practice squad. In five games with the Steelers, he has rushed for 121 yards on just 21 rushing attempts, averaging 5.8 yards per attempt, with a long of 21 yards. He also has one reception for nine yards.
In addition to his time on offense, which has consisted of just 36 snaps, he has also taken over the kick returner role in the wake of Ryan Switzer’s injury. He has picked up 240 return yards on 12 returns, which is not a great average, but he’s had several positive returns, with a long of 34 yards, out past the 40-yard line.
Whyte has impressed enough that the Steelers elected to dress all five running backs on the 53-man roster the past two weeks, though that has been enabled in part by the season-ending injury to Roosevelt Nix, their fullback. Trey Edmunds has moved to fullback to replace him.
Today is the last chance for the rookie to flash to leave a positive impression on a coaching staff that has still had relatively little work with him to date. No matter what happens, the Steelers will still enter 2020 with Conner, Snell, and Jaylen Samuels, so it could still be difficult to find room for him on next year’s roster.