Anthony McFarland certainly made a positive impression in his first NFL action. He carried the ball six times for 42 yards, highlighted by a 20 yard scamper, and caught a screen for a seven yard pickup (if you’ve seen the Steelers try to run screens this year, you know that’s a big deal). To Mike Tomlin, it’s a no-brainer to get him on the field more often. During his Tuesday evening presser, Tomlin said McFarland’s earned more playing time.
“He has merited more playing time,” Tomlin said via the team’s Youtube channel. “He’s had some really good practices. This is difficult environment for young guys to establish themselves and get the type of feel that you you’re willing to play them and play them a lot without preseason games and so forth. The process might be a little bit more cumbersome for him. And he’s continually worked hard and earned the opportunity that he got. And I’m sure we’re going to continue down that road with he and others.”
McFarland saw ten snaps in Sunday’s win over Houston, touching the ball seven times and targeted on eight, the final one a drop split out as a receiver. He was drafted to bring an infusion of speed to a run game built around power backs like James Conner and Benny Snell. And he certainly flashed those traits in the open field. But he’s not Dri Archer or Chris Rainey. He’s a well put together back who can hold his own running inside.
At the very least, he’s passed up Jaylen Samuels in the carry pecking order. Samuels may still have a role in two minute/passing situations, that isn’t McFarland’s strength, but it’s reasonable to expect McFarland to play 10-15 snaps per game and register 7-8 touches as he did versus Houston.
The Steelers’ run game has rolled through the first three weeks. They’ve had a hundred yard rusher each week. Benny Snell in the opener versus the Giants, James Conner over the past two. Conner is still going to be the lead back so don’t expect McFarland to join that group this season (his gamebreaking speed is always a threat for a crooked number, though) but McFarland is adding quality depth to an already quality room.