The Pittsburgh Steelers selected two players out of Maryland during this year’s draft and one of them was running back Anthony McFarland Jr. On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin joined Maryland head coach Mike Locksley on his live Instagram show to talk some about the former Terrapin running back that Pittsburgh drafted.
Tomlin was asked by Locksley to describe what it was about McFarland that jumped out on tape to him during the pre-draft process.
“You know, he has the awesome blend of youth and experience,” Tomlin said of the young running back. “You know, we drafted Derwin Gray from a year ago and, man, and I remember McFarland on Derwin’s tape. And so, we’re not talking about a guy that had a one-year body of work. We’re talking about a young guy who’s played a lot of ball and played it at a high level on a big stage and we found comfort in that. He wasn’t a guy that we had to get to know over the course of the 2019 season or hear about. We went into the 2019 season knowing about his exploits and talents. and so, it made the evaluation process really an easy one.
“Man, his talents speak for themselves. His stop-and-go quickness, his game-breaking ability in terms of his ability to make big plays, we’re excited about. We feel like we got some talent in the backfield, but we feel like he’s got a skill set that’s a little bit different than the guys that we got in our backfield in terms of his speed and open grass ability.
Locksley then reminded Tomlin that while McFarland only returned one kickoff during his two years at Maryland that the young running back practiced a lot as a returner last season and that he seemingly has the skill set to do that at the NFL level with the Steelers.
“I promise you; I don’t care where good ideas come from,” Tomlin told Locksley. “You know, give them to me.”
While Locksley only coached McFarland for one season at Maryland, the Steelers new quarterbacks coach, Matt Canada, was the Terrapin’s offensive coordinator and late-season interim head coach in 2018., the running back’s freshman year. Tomlin’s son, Dino Tomlin, also plays for Maryland currently. In short, the Steelers already knew quite a bit about McFarland prior to drafting him. That familiarity should allow for the Steelers to quickly play to McFarland’s strengths sooner rather than later.
The Steelers certainly could use more explosive plays in 2020 and McFarland showed he was more than capable of producing them in his two seasons at Maryland.
“So, he’s going to have an opportunity to contribute,” Tomlin told Locksley of McFarland. “There’s a natural niche for him there and we’re excited about getting them into the fold and letting him do what he does.”