How much of an impact will the Pittsburgh Steelers new quarterbacks coach Matt Canada have on the team’s offense in 2020? We’ll start finding out less than 45 days from now but in the meantime, Canada talked some on Tuesday about the Steelers offensive plans for 2020 and specifically about how one rookie might have a role in them. That player is none other than rookie running back Anthony McFarland Jr., the team’s first of two fourth-round draft picks this year.
“He is an explosive player,” Canada said of McFarland on Tuesday. “I think he’ll find his niche and have a role for us [in 2020].”
Canada already knew quite a bit about McFarland before the Steelers drafted him as the two were together at Maryland in 2018, which was the running back’s freshman season. Canada started off that 2018 season as the Maryland offensive coordinator and ended it as the school’s interim head coach.
As a freshman, McFarland registered 1,034 yards rushing, including 298 of those coming in an overtime loss to Ohio State.
“He was a players’ coach,” McFarland said of Canada right after being drafted by the Steelers. “He cared about us a lot, and that made us want to play for him even more, because of how he took over that job. I knew it was tough for him deep down inside, but the way he handled it, I’ve always got respect for Matt Canada, always got love for him.”
Ultimately, it’s hard to expect that McFarland will have a huge role in the Steelers offense in his 2020 rookie season and especially on the heels of no rookie minicamp or OTA practices this summer to benefit from. Even so, it’s quite possible that McFarland will have averaged three to five touches of the football a game by the time the 2020 regular season has ended.
While McFarland only caught 24 total passes for 199 yards and a touchdown in his two seasons at Maryland, he certainly has the skill set to contribute as a pass catching running back at the NFL level. His speed and quickness between the tackles and on the edge as a runner will allow him the opportunity to hit a few big plays as a rookie as well.
“I’m excited to have him around,” Canada said Tuesday of McFarland. “He’s excited. He’s learning, he’s working, he’s doing everything I hoped he would be doing.”