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 Kerrith Whyte
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: You can safely gather that the majority of these stock evaluations for the foreseeable future will be tied to players gaining either advantages or disadvantages tied to a shortened preseason and limited opportunities to catch a coach’s eye. In that sense, Whyte’s prior experience and resume will help keep his name relevant, with Anthony McFarland being a rookie.
The lack of a proper offseason is a positive for Kerrith Whyte’s roster hopes, I am arguing, based on the fact that the player who is most likely to displace him, rookie Anthony McFarland, may be slow to be acclimatized to the NFL.
With a running back room that includes James Conner, Benny Snell, and Jaylen Samuels as well, it feels like the odds are pretty good that the Steelers will roster four halfbacks this year. Conner, Snell, and McFarland are locks. Samuels has a less redundant skill set than Whyte, but this is where McFarland’s inexperience favors the latter.
Both McFarland and Whyte add a speed dimension to the backfield that is completely lacking in their other top three backs. If McFarland is not ready to contribute right away, then Whyte is the only player who could deliver that, as he did in a short amount of work last season.
McFarland has also been talked about as a potential candidate to return kicks this year, even though he did not do that in-game in college. Whyte did, and he returned kicks for the team last season in his s ix games here. Again, the lack of a proper offseason opens the door to a potential roster spot for him.
Then there is the fact that Samuels himself is coming off of a rough season. He averaged just 2.7 yards per carry last year on 66 attempts, and 6.5 yards per reception on 47 receptions. Of course, he did have a knee injury that was repaired midseason as well.
Either way, I suspect that whichever of the two does not make the 53-man roster will probably be kept on the practice squad—assuming they are not claimed off waivers.