The Pittsburgh Steelers are now training camp, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.
Even training camp will look much different from the norm, and a big part of that will be the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. There will be no preseason played in 2020, so the first time the Steelers take the field in 2020 will be for the season opener against the New York Giants.
Before we get there, however, there are a number of issues that are outstanding on this team, and this year’s edition of training camp will not provide the level of thoroughness that teams are normally used to in trying to answer those questions.
Questions like, what is the starting offensive line going to look like? Will it include Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor? Who will be the primary nose tackle? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.
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: How many carries will Anthony McFarland receive during his rookie season?
While it’s easier for running backs to contribute as rookies than it is for most other positions, not having a preseason (and losing most of the offseason) is a setback that will be a struggle for many in the 2020 class to overcome.
Fortunately for the Steelers’ Anthony McFarland, there isn’t much placed on his shoulders this year. At best, he is looking at being potentially the third running back on the depth chart, behind James Conner and Benny Snell at least, and possibly even third behind one of Jaylen Samuels, Kerrith Whyte, or Consummate Professional Wendell Smallwood.
Playing only two collegiate seasons, and getting a minor workload no less, the rookie has never been a volume player by any means, at least from his statistical output. Still, one gets the sense that the Steelers would like to try to utilize his talents, the speed that he brings. While Whyte is also fast, he has a slimmer frame, and also is far from guaranteed to make the roster.
Last year, Snell logged 108 carries, and that came largely due to Conner’s injuries. Samuels had 25 carries as a rookie, again, largely coming due to Conner’s injuries late in the year. Conner had even fewer touches, just 32 carries, during his rookie season playing behind Le’Veon Bell.