Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: RB Kerrith Whyte
Stock Value: Down
Anthony McFarland is a bigger, stronger Kerrith Whyte who, while he doesn’t have much of a return history, is going to be looked at in that spot. That is bad news for Whyte, who was picked up by the Steelers off of the Chicago Bears’ practice squad with six games left to go in the 2019 season.
A 2019 seventh-round pick by Chicago, Whyte spent the first three games of the season on the Bears’ 53-man roster, but never dressed. He was waived and reverted to their practice squad until Pittsburgh signed him, replacing Tony Brooks-James.
He would come in and chip in 24 carries over the final six games of the season, putting up 122 rushing yards with five first downs, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He had four carries of double-digit yardage, including a 21-yard run as his first NFL touch.
But he also had three runs for negative yardage, though overall his rushing success rate hovered around the 50 percent mark, depending upon which rubric you choose to use. Being around 50 percent isn’t bad at all, for what it’s worth, but it’s hard to see an expanded role for him.
I like Whyte, no doubt, but with McFarland coming in, he really appears to be expendable. The Maryland back does figure to be an upgrade, especially as a player who would be able to function more as an every-down runner if necessary.
With James Conner and Benny Snell also set to return, Jaylen Samuels’ roster spot is already in jeopardy, and at this point it should definitely be assumed that Trey Edmunds will be heading back to the practice squad, if that.
The Steelers’ backfield now consists of at least five players for probably no more than four roster spots. One of the reasons they ended up with five at the end of last season was because their fullback was on injured reserve. And it’s not even a guarantee they will carry four backs. If they don’t, Conner, Snell, and McFarland are going to be the ones making the cut.