The Pittsburgh Steelers signed running back Wendell Smallwood to their roster a few weeks ago and that move surprised quite a few people. To hear second year running backs coach Eddie Faulkner talk on Wednesday, even he probably didn’t know Smallwood would be signed until after the transaction happened.
“Well, hey, I’m going to be honest with you, that’s out of my paygrade a little bit,” Faulkner said on Wednesday when he was asked about the Steelers addition of Smallwood a few weeks ago and if that’s the kind of running back the team had its sights on doing ahead of training camp getting underway. “You know, the personnel department, they go about their business. Whoever they put in my room, I’m going to coach the mess out of them and get them as good as they can be and it’s really as simple as that.”
While Faulkner did admit on Wednesday that he’s still getting to know Smallwood and what all he can bring to the team’s running back depth chart, he’s still seen enough out of the West Virginia product and former fifth-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles to have a good understanding of the kind of player he is and how he prepares.
“You know what I’ve seen from Wendell is he’s a pro,” Faulkner said. “You know what I mean? He comes into work every day, he’s smart, he understands the urgency involved, and not only learning it, but how he practices. He’s just a consummate professional. So, it’s not any surprise that he’s had the record that he has in the NFL.”
After looking at his tape from his first four seasons in the NFL, it’s hard to fathom why Smallwood, who spent last season with the Washington Redskins, was still unemployed late in the offseason and just ahead of training camps getting underway. After all, he’s proven himself to be a reliable and competent all-around running back and special teams player in the NFL since being drafted in 2016.
To date, Smallwood, who spent his first three NFL seasons with the Eagles, has rushed for 931 yards on 233 total carries and caught 56 passes for 452 yards and two touchdowns in the 52 total games he’s played in. He’s also returned 16 kickoffs for 401 yards and a touchdown with a long of 86 yards to date and registered 8 special teams tackles since entering the NFL.
While Smallwood is far from being considered a lock to make the Steelers initial 2020 53-man roster roughly 30 days from now, a plausible path is ahead of him to do so nonetheless and especially if he can manage to beat out fellow running back Jaylen Samuels, who has been on the team’s Reserve/COVID-19 list for all of training camp.
Maybe Samuels needing to be on that COVID list at the start of training camp played a big part in Smallwood getting signed. Regardless of the reason why Smallwood was signed, however, Faulkner made it clear on Wednesday that the experienced running back fits well in the position group’s room so far.
“I will say, I’m glad he’s in the room, because like I said earlier, he’s a professional and he’s a great example for some of the younger guys on how you handle your business,” Faulkner said of Smallwood. “But whoever they put in that room to coach, I’m going to coach them.”