The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was weeks before the 2020 NFL Draft took place. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed since then, and the changes apply to almost every position on the roster, some major changes, some minor.
We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp, this time not at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.
Position: Running Back
Total Positional Figure: 8
James Conner: A Pro Bowler in 2018, Conner is looking to prove that he is still that same player, if only he could just stay healthy. A contract year should help to motivate him.
Jaylen Samuels: Going into his third season, Samuels is on the roster bubble coming off a rough year, during which he also had a knee injury. His receiving skills give him a feather in his cap, and he does play on special teams.
Benny Snell: Last year’s fourth-round rookie showed potential as a number two workhorse running back with the possibility of developing a complete skill set. It’s imperative that he report in peak physical condition this year.
Kerrith Whyte: A late-round rookie pick by the Bears, the Steelers picked him up in the second half of the season off of their practice squad. He flashed some and even worked kick returns, but his skill set is largely redundant relative to their more muscular rookie.
Trey Edmunds: The eldest Edmunds brother is almost surely not going to make the 53-man roster, but like the past two years, could hang on with a practice squad spot and find himself called up due to injury.
Ralph Webb: Webb spent time on the practice squad last year. With an expanded squad in 2020, there’s the possibility that they keep more running backs.
Derek Watt: Replacing Roosevelt Nix as the fullback is Derek Watt, who is also a workhorse special teamer. The question is how big of a role he will have on offense. Likely in the ballpark of 150 snaps.
Anthony McFarland: A fourth-round pick out of Maryland, McFarland has an intriguing skill set that adds speed to the position. A redshirt sophomore, he doesn’t have a lot of tread on his tires, and his pretty compact for his size.
Darrin Hall: A late addition to the practice squad last season, Hall was waived after the Steelers drafted McFarland.
Notes and Camp Outlook:
Training camp should be an interesting one, but primarily, I think, to determine whether they keep three halfbacks or four on the initial 53-man roster. They played most of last season with four even though they started with three. Conner, Snell, and McFarland are locks, but both Samuels and Whyte can make a case for themselves, and it might be too hard to justify losing both of them.
I think chances are very good that they keep at least five halfbacks between the 53-man roster and the practice squad, and Samuels and Whyte will be in the mix for either, with Edmunds and Webb in the discussion for the latter. We may even see six.
Things to consider: if there will be some sort of running back by committee, and what kind of role McFarland can have from the jump. Plus, as mentioned, getting a look at Snell’s conditioning level.