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 Anthony McFarland
Stock Value: Purchased
As many of you probably knew, I was not a big fan of the idea of drafting a running back at all, but the selection of McFarland has slowly won me over because of his limited exposure, his speed, and his potential to be a contributor for years to come in a way that wasn’t previously present on the roster.
And the fact that he wasn’t a Day-Two pick also helped. They were able to address two of their biggest needs with their top two picks in bringing in a wide receiver with Chase Claypool and then securing some desperately-wanted depth at outside linebacker by selecting Alex Highsmith. Add in a guard of Kevin Dotson’s quality a short while later, and it does ease the positional hangups.
And McFarland is not to be held accountable for the fact that the team waited to address the safety and defensive tackle positions. He wasn’t the one who drafted himself, so that’s irrelevant. What is relevant is what he is able to bring to the team.
And what his college tape clearly shows is that he offers homerun potential out of the backfield, which is pretty much something that we haven’t seen since Willie Parker, or at least Rashard Mendenhall (he did have that nifty 50-yard walkoff touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in overtime that was pretty sweet).
There have been speed guys in between, in Dri Archer and Chris Rainey. But neither of them had the size to use that breakaway speed without avoiding contact altogether. McFarland can take a hit, or spin off of one, then bend the corner and race up the sideline for 70 yards. James Conner can’t do that. Benny Snell can’t do that. Jaylen Samuels can’t do that. I’m not sure Kerrith Whyte’s frame would allow for it, either.
Perhaps what I’m most interested in with McFarland, though, is just how much of his skillset is yet untapped. There is the sense that he has the hands to be a contributor in the passing game, and the vision to be an effective returner. If he can be a triple threat for the long haul, even if he is never a bellcow back, then this is nothing short of a homerun pick.