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: Down
Reasoning: Every rookie will be negatively impacted by the lack of an offseason due to the coronavirus, and running backs are no different. At this point, it’s still possible that there is no preseason at all, and with multiple running backs already ahead of him, McFarland could be looking at time on the inactive list.
While everybody is really excited about Anthony McFarland thanks to the fact that he is a running back who has speed, but he still has to earn the reps that he gets on the field. And if he doesn’t earn a kick return job, it increases the chances that he can find himself sitting on the bench until he does earn his reps.
That would be even more likely if Kerrith Whyte happens to earn the kick return job. Many doubt his chances of making the team because of his redundancy with McFarland’s skill set, but he still has a chance of making the team, and winning the kick return job is perhaps his best avenue.
Consider this: McFarland has one career kick return in college. Whyte had 81 kick returns in college for a 26.1-yard average and two touchdowns. He averaged 28.7 yards per return in 2018. Although his numbers were not good, he also returned 14 kicks for the Steelers in the six games he played for them last year. It’s worth remembering that he joined the team mid-season as a rookie.
McFarland only had two years of college playing experience, with limited work overall, and not much in the passing game, with almost none as a returner. He is a young player who is inexperienced, and hasn’t gotten a chance to get on an NFL practice field yet.
Now he will have at most two preseason games to show up for himself, maybe even none, with limitations in the preseason. Add in that wrinkle and it really ups the chances that he could possibly start his rookie season as a healthy scratch. The possibility of Whyte making the roster over Jaylen Samuels increases the odds of this happening.