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2020 Offseason Questions: Will Steelers Try Pony Backfield Again?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Will the Steelers try to use two-back sets again as they did at the start of last season?

During the offseason, a number of running backs on the roster talked about how talented their room was and about a willingness to share the workload. As the offseason progressed, we also began to hear talk about potentially using two-back sets featuring two halfbacks, and we did see this, very briefly, at the start of last season, something like maybe 10 snaps, with both James Conner and Jaylen Samuels on the field.

This plan got sidetracked quickly, starting with the injury to Ben Roethlisberger, and then Samuels and Conner also got hurt. But all of them should be healthy this season. Samuels, on the other hand, is not guaranteed to have a roster spot.

A two-back set featuring Conner and Benny Snell would seem kind of pointless. Anthony McFarland is a rookie, without extensive experience in the passing game, so I don’t know that he would be used, and he’s not going to be throwing many blocks.

If Samuels doesn’t make the roster, I don’t know that there’s much chance of seeing this iteration of two-back personnel sets. Not that it would be a prolific or important package either way.

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