For the first time since entering the NFL, Kerrith Whyte’s head won’t be spinning. It’s not ideal, the elimination of the preseason isn’t a good thing for a guy in his position, but he’s now beginning his second year in pro football and his first summer with the Steelers.
Whyte was scooped off the Bears practice squad mid-way through last season when injuries decimated the Pittsburgh backfield. He was immediately thrown into the fire and answered the call, carrying the ball 24 times for 122 yards, a healthy 5.1 average. The trust they showed, even if it was partially out of need, wasn’t lost on him.
“I got here and four days later played in my first game,” he said via Teresa Varley’s running training camp blog over on the team website. “It was unique. I appreciated that. When someone trusts you with the ball, that’s what it’s about.”
Now he enters training camp knowing the NFL and the Steelers system with eyes on making the 53 man roster out of the gate. He’ll battle Jaylen Samuels and Wendell Smallwood for the #4 RB job. Taking care of the football during practice is the best way to increase his reps and improve his odds of winning the job.
“Ball security means everything. Ball security is always number one. Without the ball you can’t do anything. Ball security is the most important thing. I take pride in it. I know how meaningful the ball is.”
He didn’t fumble the football last year, though the sample size was obviously small. His roster chances were dinged by the drafting of Anthony McFarland. Prior to that, Whyte was the lone speed back in the room, a worthwhile change of pace to bigger, power backs like James Conner and Benny Snell. Whyte’s skillset is a bit redundant. Maintaining his role as the team’s starting kick returner almost feels like a must in order for him to make the Week 1 roster. He’s currently battling Ryan Switzer and potentially McFarland for those duties.
Even if he doesn’t, his odds of ending up on the expanded 16 man practice squad are strong. Given the injuries the team dealt with last season, he’d likely earn a call-up at some point during the year.